Developing theories of the mind: children's and adults' concepts of mental activities.

W. V. Fabricius, P. J. Schwanenflugel, P. C. Kyllonen, C. R. Barclay, S. M. Denton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


8-year-olds', 10-year-olds', and adults' concepts of mental activities involved in acts of knowing were examined in an attempt to gain insight into developmental changes in underlying theories of mind. Subjects rated the similarity of how the mind is used in a variety of common activities, each of which primarily involved either memory, comprehension, attention, or inference. Analyses of conceptual structure revealed 2 developmental changes. Between 8 and 10 years of age, children came to see the most important relation among mental activities to be the degree to which they involved memory. Between 10 years of age and adulthood, Comprehension and Attention first appeared as distinct, coherent concepts. At all ages, Memory and Inference were seen as distinct types of mental activities. These findings suggested that a sophisticated understanding of the representational nature of the mind might not be acquired before the latter part of middle childhood and might be mediated by an understanding of the central role played by memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1278-1290
Number of pages13
JournalChild development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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