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Theory Of MindTheory of mind (ToM) is the intuitive understanding of one's own and other people's minds or mental states--- including thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, knowledge, intentions, desires, and emotions---and of how those mental states influence behaviour.ToM is an innate human ability. The understanding that others have mental states different from one's own makes it possible to infer what others are thinking and to predict their behaviour. This ability to recognize one's own state of mind and those of others is central to human consciousness.
The Theory Of The MindThe word theory in ToM refers to a person's tacit belief rather than to theory in the scientific sense. However, ToM is similar to a scientific theory in that it enables one to interpret and predict another's actions by evaluating their thoughts, beliefs, desires, or emotions. ToM also qualifies as a theory in the sense that the representations of reality generated by ToM are not directly observable.The ability to develop a ToM is a cognitive ability that develops by degrees from infancy through childhood and adolescence on into adulthood. It forms a basis for a child's acquisition of language and the development of appropriate social behaviour and skills. ToM includes the ability to understand that the representations generated in one's mind do not necessarily reflect the real world and that other people may hold different representations. Empathy---the ability to understand another person's perceptions on a deep level without reference to one's own perceptions---may be a culminating feature of ToM development.ToM is involved in all aspects of daily living and social interactions. It underlies learning and teaching and the ability to follow directions and understand socially based information. ToM skills are essential for working cooperatively. They also underlie the ability to manipulate and deceive others. A lack of ToM skills is considered by many to be a core deficit in autism. and studies of autism have promoted research on the development and complex functioning of ToM.As a basic component of human consciousness ToM has roots in philosophy, particularly in the groundwork for a science of the mind laid down by Rene Descartes (1596-1650).The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896- 1980) suggested that before the age of 3 or 4 egocentrism prevents children from understanding that other people's thoughts and viewpoints may differ from their own. In 1978 Nicholas
Humphrey proposed that introspective consciousness has a specific function; it enables social animals to predict each other's behaviour. Being aware of the effects of emotions on one's own behaviour enables humans to predict the reactions of others to those same emotions.
Theory Of Mind In Infants & ToddlersAlthough children clearly begin to develop ToM at an earlier age than Piaget thought, researchers disagree as to which behaviours indicate a developing ToM in children younger than 3, and it has been very difficult to assess ToM in preverbal children.Some researchers argue that mimicking by infants is indicative of a developing ToM. Infants under 1 year expect hands and objects to move in ways that are goal-oriented. Between 6 and 12 months infants develop "joint attention"---
looking in the direction of someone else's gaze. Between 12 and 18 months babies will look in the direction that someone is pointing, rather than at the person's finger, and will themselves point to draw someone's attention to something. In 2000 Charman and colleagues found that children who showed the highest rates of joint attention at 20 months scored the highest on ToM tests at 44 months.
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