This paper proposes a novel approach to interpret the results of a classical second-order false belief task (the ice cream man task) administered to children in order to investigate their Theory of Mind. We adopted a dialogical perspective to study the adult-child discussion in this research setting. In particular, we see the adult-child conversation as an argumentative discussion in which children are asked to justify their answers to the questions asked by the researcher. We analysed the specificities of the research setting as an argumentative activity type; we re- constructed and analysed the children's answers on the basis of two models taken from Argumentation theory (the pragma-dialectical model and the Argumentum Model of Topics). Our findings show that some of the children's partially “incorrect” answers depend on the pragmatics of the conversation, the relation between explicit and implicit content, and a misunderstanding of the discussion issue. Other “incorrect” answers are actually based on correct inferences but they do not meet the researchers' expectations, because the children do not share the same material premises as the researchers. These findings invite further research on children's reasoning and on the characteristics of argumentation within a research task.
- Argumentative activity type
- Second order false belief task
- Theory of mind