Infant educators’ use of mental-state talk in Australia and China: a cross-cultural comparative study

Sheila Degotardi*, Feifei Han, Jiangbo Hu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This study compares the mental-state talk of infant educators in Australia and China in order to determine the nuanced differences in the ways that they use this talk with the infants in their room. Participants are 44 native English-speaking Australian educators from centres in Sydney, Australia and 30 native Chinese-speaking infant educators recruited from centres in and around Hangzhou, China. Twenty-minute samples of each educators’ naturally occurring play interactions with infants during play were coded to determine the frequency of their desire, emotion, perception, cognition and modulation of assertion talk. Each mental-state term was also coded according to the referent of that mental-state. We examined the extent to which Australian and Chinese educators’ use mental-state talk and how the referents of such talk differed by mental-state talk type and culture. Australian educators used significantly more mental-state talk than their Chinese counterparts. Different patterns of referent use across cultural cohorts and mental-state talk types were identified. Findings have implications for the socialisation of very young children into culturally specific ways of talking and thinking about the mind.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-105
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Early Years Education
Issue number1
Early online date7 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • mental-state language
  • childcare
  • educator-infant interactions
  • cross-cultural comparison


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