Effect of Mental State Discussion on Theory of Mind in Students Who Are Deaf

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Psychology and Special Education

Date of Award

Fall 2011


The author examined the effect of a story-reading program using mental state discussion on the performance of young students who were deaf on a false belief (FB) theory of mind (ToM) task. Twenty-six students were selected to participate; all were enrolled in a specialized school in the metropolitan northwest United States using Signing Exact English (SEE-II) as the language of instruction. All students received the training program in a switching replications design. As hypothesized, these sessions resulted in an increase in passing rate on a measure of FB reasoning. As similar ToM studies done with students with normal hearing, this study suggests that students who are deaf can also benefit from training programs using mental state discussion. Also, the results suggest the specific impact such training can have on students who are deaf of a critical age--between 4- and 6-years-old--when students who are hearing typically pass measures of FB reasoning and students who are deaf typically fail such measures. The impact of vocabulary competence was also apparent. Participants with higher receptive vocabulary scores were more likely to pass the FB measure. Also, those with the lowest scores received the most significant gain from the training program.


Steven Ball

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Psychology