, Volume 191, Issue 3, pp 355-370

First online:

Children’s strategy use when playing strategic games

  • Maartje E. J. RaijmakersAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Amsterdam Email author 
  • , Dorothy J. MandellAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Amsterdam
  • , Sara E. van EsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Amsterdam
  • , Marian CounihanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Amsterdam

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Strategic games require reasoning about other people’s and one’s own beliefs or intentions. Although they have clear commonalities with psychological tests of theory of mind, they are not clearly related to theory of mind tests for children between 9 and 10 years of age “Flobbe et al. J Logic Language Inform 17(4):417–442 (2008)”. We studied children’s (5–12 years of age) individual differences in how they played a strategic game by analyzing the strategies that they applied in a zero, first, and second-order reasoning task. For the zero-order task, we found two subgroups with different accuracy levels. For the first-order task, subgroups of children applied different suboptimal strategies or an optimal strategy. For the second-order task only suboptimal strategies were present. Strategy use for all tasks was related to age. The 5- and 6-year old children were additionally tested on theory of mind understanding and executive functioning. Strategy-use in these children was related to working memory, but not to theory of mind after correction for age, verbal ability and general IQ.


Strategic games Child development Reasoning Theory of mind Strategy analysis