ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (9): 1028-1039.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.01028

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Level 2 visual perspective-taking at age 3 and the corresponding effect of cooperation

JIN Xinyi(),ZHOU Bingxin,MENG Fei   

  1. Department of Psychology, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua 321004, China
  • Received:2018-11-19 Published:2019-09-25 Online:2019-07-24
  • Contact: Xinyi JIN


Level 2 visual perspective-taking, which is a type of reasoning through which perceptions are formed on the basis of others’ perspectives, underlies various social cognitions. Therefore, the development of this type of reasoning attracts considerable attention. The traditional turtle task ( Masangkay et al., 1974) indicated that level 2 visual perspective-taking does not emerge until age 4~5. Moll and Meltzoff (2011) introduced a color-filter task and suggested that 3-year-old Western children demonstrate such an understanding. Therefore, our first aim was to investigate 3-year-old Chinese children’s level 2 visual perspective-taking. A crucial aspect concerns how this type of reasoning develops. From a constructivist view, cooperation is supposed to play a crucial role. Numerous studies have provided supporting evidence that cooperation is uniquely related to improvements in perspectival understanding. However, a direct measurement of visual perspective-taking is lacking. Therefore, our second aim was to determine the effect of cooperation on the development of children’s level 2 visual perspective-taking.

The present study performed two experiments. In each experiment, 48 3-year-old Chinese children were randomly assigned to a cooperative or competitive group. Each participant successively received a level 2 visual perspective-taking pre-test, 3-minute cooperative or competitive social interaction according to their group assignment, and level 2 visual perspective-taking post-test. Social interaction involved a fishing game with an experimenter, in which children can collaboratively (cooperation) catch as much fish as they can or catch more fish than others (competition). Two types of tasks (i.e., experiment 1: turtle task; experiment 2: color-filter task) were used to measure the children’s level 2 visual perspective-taking. The pre- and post-tests shared the same task type but used different items.

The children’s performance was examined and compared between groups in each experiment. Results showed that (1) 3-year-old Chinese children showed no significant tendency to take level 2 visual perspectives. Experiment 1 indicated that the traditional turtle task was fraught with difficulty for the children. That is, the participants significantly tended to report their own perspective when asked about others’ perspective in the pre-test. This result agreed with previous findings that children generally fail this task until age 4. Experiment 2 used a color-filter task. The participants randomly took others’ perspective or their own, thereby indicating that they had difficulty taking others’ perspectives. (2) Cooperation improved children’s level 2 visual perspective-taking. Experiment 2 found that their level 2 visual perspective-taking was enhanced after cooperation but not after competition. In the post-test, children who cooperated successfully took one another’s perspective, whereas those who competed performed randomly. The difference between groups was significant. Experiment 1 showed the same tendency, but no significance was observed.

Present findings prompt us to update our knowledge of the early development of visual perspective-taking. First, results indicate that 3-year-old children continue to experience difficulty in level 2 visual perspective-taking. Second, cooperation considerably helps children take level 2 visual perspectives. Although children failed to independently take one another’s perspectives, they managed to do so with the help of a preceding task-irrelevant cooperation. This result clarifies the constructive impact of social interaction, thereby suggesting that the ability to take others’ perspectives could be specifically enhanced by cooperation. Thus, future studies should focus on the long-term effects of cooperation and how it constructs children’s developing representation of visual perspectives.

Key words: young children, level-2 visual perspective-taking, social interaction, cooperation, constructivism.

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