Training children's theory-of-mind: A meta-analysis of controlled studies

Stefan G. Hofmann*, Stacey N. Doan, Manuel Sprung, Anne Wilson, Chad Ebesutani, Leigh A. Andrews, Joshua Curtiss, Paul L. Harris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

82 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Theory-of-mind (ToM) refers to knowledge and awareness of mental states in oneself and others. Various training programs have been developed to improve ToM in children. Objectives: In the present study, we conducted a quantitative review of ToM training programs that have been tested in controlled studies. Data sources: A literature search was conducted using PubMed, PsycInfo, the Cochrane Library, and manual searches. Review methods: We identified 32 papers with 45 studies or experiments that included 1529 children with an average age of 63 months (SD = 28.7). Results: ToM training procedures were more effective than control procedures and their aggregate effect size was moderately strong (Hedges' g = 0.75, CI = 0.60-0.89, p < .001). Moderator analyses revealed that although ToM training programs were generally effective, ToM skill-related outcomes increased with length of training sessions and were significantly higher in active control studies. Conclusion: ToM training procedures can effectively enhance ToM in children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-212
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Appearance-reality
  • False beliefs
  • Intervention
  • Meta-analysis
  • Theory of mind
  • Training
  • Age Factors
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic/methods
  • Humans
  • Theory of Mind/physiology
  • Teaching/psychology
  • Child

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Training children's theory-of-mind: A meta-analysis of controlled studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this