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Psychological lexicon and theory-of-mind: Training preschool children to improve their social cognition

This paper focuses on the relationship between children's psychological lexicon and their development of social cognition as assessed through theory-of-mind and emotion understanding tasks. It provides a brief overview of the topic, describes our own previous data, and reports new findings with a larger sample. Participants in our latest study were 102 children of 3, 4 and 5 years of age, randomly assigned to training or control conditions. All the children were pre- and post- tested with linguistic and cognitive measures to assess their language ability, mental-state talk comprehension, false-belief understanding and emotion comprehension. During the intervention, participants in the training condition were read stories enriched with psychological lexicon and took part in language games and conversations aimed at stimulating the use of inner-state terms. As expected, they outperformed the control group at post-test on most of the administered measures. The intervention brought about a stronger improvement in social cognition in the 3- and 4-year old participants. Educational implications are briefly discussed.

Key words: psychological lexicon, mental-state talk, theory-of-mind, emotion understanding, training study, social cognition

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