Children's understanding of faux pas: Associations with peer relations

Dawn Watling, Robin Banerjee

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The present study addresses children's performance on the 'faux pas' test of social understanding. Based on previous tasks reported in Baron-Cohen et al. (1999) and Banerjee (2000). a computer interface was used to administer a new version that required children to answer forced-choice questions about four hypothetical stories involving unintentional insults. In a sample of 308 children the 5- to 6-year-olds were significantly poorer on the faux pas test then the 8- to-9-year-olds, as expected. Although the children performed well in identifying that feelings had been hurt and in answering comprehension questions, they found three questions relatively difficult: detecting faux pas in the first place, seeing that the insult was unintentional, and recognising the ignorance that led to the faux pas. Importantly, success on the key questions of the faux pas task was negatively associated with peer rejection. Rejected and controversial children, who receive relatively high numbers of negative sociometric nominations from their classmatess, performed significantly worse on this task than other children. This pattern was evident only for the older age group. Results are discussed in the light of recent research linking theory of mind performance with social adjustment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-45
JournalHellenic Journal of Psychology:Special Issue on Theory of Mind
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Faux pas,theory of mind
  • peer relations

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