The concept of “Theory of Mind” and its application to human development
Theory of mind is related to the theories about the nature of mind, its structure, processes, states (beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.) and a specific cognitive capacity: the ability to attribute mental states. In developmental psychology, theory of mind is a basic understanding of how the mind works and how it influences behaviour.
Empathy is a capacity to understand the other person’s states of mind, including beliefs, desires and particularly emotions of others without injecting your own, often characterized as the ability to experience something from the other person’s point of view. People have intuitive understanding of their own and other people mental state / minds, including beliefs and thoughts.
Theory of mind appears to be an innate potential ability in humans. It develops from the early age: by the age of 3 years a child has a well-developed theory of mind but cannot understand that the people’s beliefs could be false.
Theory of mind development. In early childhood egocentrism, a child does not understand that others’ views and thoughts differ from his own (Piaget). Hobson suggests that typically developing human beings are born with a set of skills (such as social referencing ability) which will later enable them to comprehend and react to other people’s feelings. Children pass tests of theory of mind much earlier than they leave Piaget's egocentric stage, by the age of 3 or 4 years.
Empirical investigation. Whether children younger than 3 or 4 years old may have a theory of mind is a topic of debate among researchers. It is a challenging question, due to the difficulty of assessing what pre-linguistic children understand about others and the world.
Theory of mind deficits
People with autistic disorder have severely impairment in the ability to understand mental states and how mental states govern behaviour. Mind-blindness is inability to appreciate other people’s mental state. In theory of mind an autistic person’s deficits result from a distortion in understanding and responding to emotions. Autism involves a specific developmental delay, so that children with the impairment vary in their deficiencies, because they experience difficulty in different stages of growth (Hobson). Very early setbacks can alter proper advancement of joint-attention behaviours, which may lead to a failure to form a full theory of mind. These researchers’ findings are important to understanding the social disorder, because they suggest that autism’s abnormalities, which may initially appear to be unrelated to theory of mind, such as communication challenges, in fact result from theory of mind deficits.
The concept states that an individual has a unique identity developed relatively late in history. Factors influencing the emphasis on personal identity may include increased emphasis on gender identity, gender identity disorder and transgender issues.
Developmental linguistics studies the development of linguistic ability in an individual, particularly the acquisition of language in childhood. Language relates to the minds of both the speaker and the interpreter. The specific interest is the grounds for successful translation of words into other words.
Interpersonal communication includes verbal communication by words or their meaning, paraverbal communication such as loudness of speaking, manner of speaking, when keeping silent, meaning of interrupting or interfering the conversation; nonverbal communication such as body language (facial expression, eye contact, gestures), messages without words; and extraverbal communication such as time and place related to communication, context, orientation towards target groups, tactile (feeling by touching) and olfactory (smelling) aspects.