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Theory of mind (TOM) is the intuitive ability we develop through early childhood to know that others have a different point of

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To what extent is an acquisition of a 'theory of mind' essential for the 'typical' development of the child? To answer this question, this essay will firstly discuss what is meant by Theory of Mind (ToM). It will then go on to look at evidence to support ToM while discussing the extent to which ToM is essential for the 'typical' development of the child. ToM resides under social cognition, where people think about people (Remmel, et al., 2001). Through the course of early childhood development, children distinguish that people, including themselves, have thoughts, intentions, wants, and feelings. ToM describes a child's understanding that people's behaviours can be predicted or explained by mental states. ToM enables us to recognize there may be multiple viewpoints held by individuals for particular situations, and we can take on those perspectives even when they vary from our own (Gray and Hosie, 1996; Gray, et al., 2001; Marschark, et al., 2000; Siegal and Varley, 2002). This understanding of mental states and their impact on others' behaviour notably affects our interpersonal relationships. Siegal and Varley (2002) further described ToM as crucial to social competence and necessary for the creation and maintenance of a range of relationships with other people. Examples of the relationship between mental state and understanding behaviour include the following (Marschark, et al., 2000; Meltzoff, 1999; Reiffe and Terwogt, 2000): Desires: A child recognizes that Mum reaches into the biscuit barrel because she wants a biscuit. Emotions: A child observes that another child is crying and comments that the child feels sad. Intentions: When an adult throws a ball toward a basket but misses, a child will pick up the ball and drop the ball in the basket because the child understands that the adult intended to have the ball go into the basket. Beliefs: A child sees that her parent's keys are on the kitchen table. However, the child recognizes that the parent is looking in her purse for her keys because she thinks (believes) ...read more.


is the intuitive ability we develop through early childhood to know that others have a different point of view to our own. No other species, as far as we know, can 'put itself in someone else's shoes' to see how they might be feeling to the same extent that we can. To take it a step further, from putting ourselves in the place of another we can predict certain courses of events. TOM is not just interpreting how another behaves but how they think, so for example one does not just understand that if someone puts their hand on an iron they will pull it away quickly afterwards, but that in touching it the other has felt pain from the heat of the iron and therefore has moved the hand so it is no longer touching the source of pain. If you see someone else getting too close to an iron it immediately runs through your head what might happen next: that is one example of TOM. Another might be that although someone is smiling the person they are talking to knows they are really trying to hide their true feelings. TOM enables the 'person' singular to share feelings with, and understand, others, and consequently become part of an interacting social group rather than just an individual (Wellman, 1990). Humphrey suggests that 'A crucial aspect of society (is) the ability to understand or read the mind of another individual' (as cited in Miell, Phoenix and Thomas (2002), p125). Part of human evolution has been the emergence of society. Evolutionary psychology studies this as a differentiating factor to non-humans, and theory of mind can be seen as important to the establishment of society. To take another example of the importance of TOM, Byrne and Whitten's Machiavellian hypothesis (Miell, Phoenix and Thomas, 2002) theorise that we reached our present level of creative intelligence through the adaptive nature of our deception, opportunism and 'cunning' cooperation. ...read more.


(1988). Moral development. In M. Bornstein and M. Lamb (Eds.) Developmental psychology: an advanced textbook. (pp. 497 548). London: Erlbaum. Marschark, M., Green, V., Hindmarch, G., and Walker, S. (2000). Understanding theory of mind in children who are deaf. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41(8), 1067-1073. Meltzoff, A.N. (1999). Origins of theory of mind, cognition, and communication. Journal of Communication Disorders, 32, 251-269. Miell, D., Phoenix, A. and Thomas, K. (2002). Mapping Psychology. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Peterson, C.C. (2004). Theory-of-mind development in oral deaf children with cochlear implants or conventional hearing aids. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(0), 1-11. Peterson, C., and Slaughter, V. (2003). Opening windows into the mind: Mothers' preferences for mental state explanations and children's theory of mind. Cognitive Development 18, 399-429. Piaget, J. (1936). The origins of intelligence in the child. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. References Reiffe, C., and Terwogt, M.M. (2000). Deaf children's understanding of emotions: Desires take precedence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 41(5), 601-608. Remmel, E., Bettger, J.G., and Weinberg, A.M. (2001). Theory of mind development in deaf children (pp. 113- 134). In M.D. Clark, M. Marschark, and M. Karchmer (Eds.) Context, cognition, and deafness. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press. Richards, R.J. (1974). The innate and the learned: the evolution of Konrad Lorenz's theory of instinct. Philosophy of Social Science, 4, 111 - 133. Schaffer, R.H. (1996). Social Development. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Schick, B., de Villiers, J., de Villiers, P., and Hoffmeister, B. (2002). Theory of mind: Language and cognition in deaf children. The ASHA Leader Online. Retrieved May 1, 2005 from http://www.asha.org/about/publications/leader online/archives/2002/q4/f021203.htm Selman, R. L. (1980). The growth of interpersonal understanding. New York: Academic Press. Siegal, M., and Varley, R. (2002). Neural systems involved in 'theory of mind'. Neuroscience, 3, 463-471. Tronick, E., Als, H., Adamson, L., Wise, S., and Brazelton, T B. (1978). The infant's response to entrapment between contradictory messages in face-to-face interaction. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 17, 1-13. ...read more.

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