Secret keepers: children's theory of mind and their conception of secrecy

Malinda J. Colwell, Kimberly Corson, Anuradha Sastry, Holly Wright

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4 Scopus citations


In this mixed methods study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 3–5-year-olds (n = 21) in a university-sponsored preschool programme and children completed a theory of mind (ToM) task. After grouping children into pass/no pass groups for the ToM tasks, analyses using interpretive phenomenology indicated that preschool children explain their understanding of secrets and secret hiding places differently, depending on their ToM ability. Children in the ‘pass' group had more detailed narratives, showed more imagination, and required less prompting in their discussions of secret hiding places, regardless of age. Those in the ‘no pass' group had more concrete examples of secret hiding places and relied more heavily on their drawings to explain those places. Implications for children's social competence are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-381
Number of pages13
JournalEarly Child Development and Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 3 2016


  • interpretive phenomenology
  • preschool children
  • secret hiding places
  • secrets
  • theory of mind


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