What is "theory of mind"? Concepts, cognitive processes and individual differences.

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Research on "theory of mind" has traditionally focused on a narrow participant group (preschool children) using a narrow range of experimental tasks (most notably, false-belief tasks). Recent work has greatly expanded the age range of human participants tested to include human infants, older children, and adults, has devised new tasks, and has adopted methods from cognitive psychology and neuroscience. However, theoretical work has not kept pace with these changes, with the result that studies using one kind of method or participant group often inherit assumptions about the nature of theory of mind from other research, with little regard for whether these assumptions are appropriate. I argue that three distinct approaches to thinking about theory of mind are already implicit in research practice, and that future work, whether with infants, children, or adults, will benefit from articulating these approaches more clearly and following their different implications for what theory of mind is and how it should be studied.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-39
Number of pages15
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012


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