Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Developmental Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Kim Roberts

Advisor Role



Source monitoring is the process of identifying and analyzing sources of information (Johnson et al., 1993). The ability to monitor source improves with age which places children at a greater risk for blending and misattributing information from different sources. Experiencing source confusions has academic, legal, and social implications, and thus understanding how source monitoring develops is important. Research exploring factors that impact source monitoring have predominantly focused on maturational aspects such as at which ages children learn to monitor source and neurological factors such as executive functioning. However, the impact of age and executive functioning may vary across the type of sources presented, and thus the current study sought to investigate other potential processes that may influence children’s ability to monitor source. Emerging literature has illustrated the role of language on source-monitoring skills, showing that linguistic structure may help to identify where information came from. Parents are usually children’s most important linguistic partners and play a critical role in how children remember past events, making the parental-interactional style an interesting process to examine in children’s source monitoring. Consequently, the goal of this study was to assess the association between mental-state talk in parent-child interactions and source monitoring. Using mental-state talk scaffolds the ability to take on others’ perspectives and promotes an understanding that people hold different representations of events which should help children to reason about different knowledge states and sources of information. It was expected that mental-state talk produced by mother-child dyads would be related to children’s recognition, source accuracy, and source confusions. Children from aged 3 to 6 years old and their mothers (N = 33 dyads) participated in two online sessions. At the first session, the mother-child dyads engaged in joint reminiscing about past events and read a wordless storybook together. Children’s receptive vocabulary (PPVT-4) was also assessed. For the source-monitoring measure, the dyads collaboratively constructed a farm scene by taking turns moving pieces. Two to three days later at the second session, children were asked recognition and source questions (e.g., who placed which piece) about the farm activity from the first session. Parent-child joint reminiscing and storytelling were transcribed and coded for the frequency of mother and child mental-state talk. Mental-state talk produced by mother-child dyads in both reminiscing and storytelling were related to children’s recognition, while only mother mental-state talk in reminiscing was related to children’s source accuracy. Further, only the combined proportion of child and mother mental-state talk in reminiscing was associated with children’s source errors. Together, the current findings add to the growing literature on source monitoring by highlighting an important parental-interactional style that may impact children’s ability to reason about multiple sources of information. With these findings, implications for parenting and educational practices are outlined and future directions are illustrated, including suggestions to increase sample size and replicate this study with older age groups.

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