Do children have a theory of mind? If they do, at what age is it acquired? What is the content of the theory, and how does it differ from that of adults? "The Child's Theory of Mind "integrates the diverse strands of this rapidly expanding field of study. It charts children's knowledge about a fundamental topic - the mind and characterizes that developing knowledge as a coherent commonsense theory, strongly advancing the understanding of everyday theories as well as the commonsense (...) theory of mind.Henry M. Wellman is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. (shrink)
Children and adults from theus and China heard about people who died in two types of narrative contexts – medical and religious – and judged whether their psychological and biological capacities cease or persist after death. Most 5- to 6-year-olds reported that all capacities would cease. In theus, but not China, there was an increase in persistence judgments at 7–8 years, which decreased thereafter.uschildren’s persistence judgments were influenced by narrative context – occurring more often for religious narratives – and such (...) judgments were made especially for psychological capacities. When participants were simply asked what happens to people following death, in both countries there were age-graded increases in references to burial, religious ritual, and the supernatural. (shrink)
Missing from Bering's account of the evolutionary origins of existential reasoning is an explicit developmental framework, one that takes into account community input. If Bering's selectionist explanation was on target then one might predict a unique and relatively robust developmental trajectory, regardless of input. Evidence suggests instead that children's existential reasoning is contingent on their developing theory of mind.
Children's conceptions of dreams are an important component of their developing understanding of the mind. Although there is much that even adults do not understand about the nature of dreams, most adults in Western society believe that: Dream entities are not real in the sense that they are nonphysical; they are private in the sense that they are not available to public perception, and are not directly shared with other dreamers; and, dreams are typically fictional in content. Thus, children in (...) our society must confront several dualisms with respect to dreams, such as their physical versus nonphysical, perceptually-public versus perceptually-private, and shared versus individuated nature. Thirty-two children, aged 3- and 4-years-old, were told stories about children who were dreaming about an object, playing with an object, or looking at a photograph of an object, and then were asked questions about the status of these entities with regard to these three dualisms. All children judged dream entities, photographs, and physical objects to be appropriately different in terms of physical versus nonphysical properties and in terms of perceptually-public versus private status. They also understood the fictional nature of dreams. However, whereas most 4-year-olds understood that dreams are individuated, many 3-year-olds believed that dreams are directly shared by more than one person. These findings contrast with earlier research characterizing children's understanding of dreams as realistic. We reconcile these contrasting findings by discussing methodological differences, and we situate our findings regarding children's understanding of dreams within the context of contemporary research on children's theory of mind. (shrink)
Obligation as defined by Tomasello requires mutually capable parties, but one-sided caregiver relationships reveal its developmental and evolutionary precursors. Specifically, “coercive” emotions may prompt protective action by caregivers toward infant primates, and infants show distress toward caregivers when they appear to violate expectations in their relationships. We argue that these early social-relational expectations and emotions may form the base of obligation.