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Department of Psychology


Publication details for Professor Charles Fernyhough

Davis, P., Meins, E. & Fernyhough, C. (2011). Self-knowledge in childhood: Relations with children’s imaginary companions and understanding of mind. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 29(3): 680-686.

Author(s) from Durham


Relations between interior self-knowledge and (a) imaginary companion (IC) status, and (b) theory of mind abilities were investigated in a sample (N=80) of 4- to 7-year-olds. Interior self-knowledge was assessed in terms of the extent to which children acknowledged that they (rather than an adult) were the authority on unobservable aspects of themselves (e.g., dreaming, thinking, hunger). Compared with children without an IC, those who possessed a parentally-corroborated IC ascribed less interior self-knowledge to an adult, with a trend for them to assign more interior self-knowledge to themselves. Children’s interior self-knowledge judgments were not associated with their theory of mind performance. IC status was also unrelated to theory of mind performance. We consider how having an IC may provide children with opportunities to distinguish between knowledge that is inaccessible to an external observer and that which an external observer may glean without being told.