Pretend play in early childhood: the road between mentalism and behaviourism

Johannes L. Brandl

in Foundations of Metacognition

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646739
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745867 | DOI:
Pretend play in early childhood: the road between mentalism and behaviourism

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This chapter addresses the question as to what early competence in pretend play can tell us about children’s metacognitive abilities. The chapter offers three considerations in response to this question. First, the chapter tries to show that mentalistic and behaviouristic theories do not exhaust the theoretical options for explaining children’s understanding of pretend play. There is, the chapter claims, a viable third alternative that emerges once one takes a teleological approach to action understanding. Second, the chapter argues that the form of children’s self-experience in pretend play serves an important function for their comprehending the pretence of other agents. Third, the chapter suggests that even if there is no direct evidence that the capacity for pretend play requires metacognitive abilities, there may be reason to think that recognizing others’ intentions to pretend enables children to become aware of their own intentions to pretend. In this way, social competence in pretend play may generate a metacognitive feeling that helps children to develop more complex forms of pretend play.

Keywords: metacognition; development; children; pretend play; teleology; metacognitive feeling

Chapter.  13419 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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