Beyond Sally's missing marble: further development in children's understanding of mind and emotion in middle childhood.
Advances in Child Development and Behavior
Format: Book Chapter
Publication Year: 2015
Pages: 185 - 217
Source ID: shanti-sources-38866
Collection: Theory of Mind
Abstract: Research on the development of theory of mind (ToM), the understanding of people in relation to mental states and emotions, has been a vibrant area of cognitive development research. Because the dominant focus has been addressing when children acquire a ToM, researchers have concentrated their efforts on studying the emergence of psychological understanding during infancy and early childhood. Here, the benchmark test has been the false-belief task, the awareness that the mind can misrepresent reality. While understanding false belief is a critical milestone achieved by the age of 4 or 5, children make further advances in their knowledge about mental states and emotions during middle childhood and beyond. Thus, a comprehensive understanding of children's sociocognitive abilities in older age groups is necessary to understand more fully the course of ToM development. The aim of this review is to outline continued development in ToM during middle childhood. In particular, we focus on children's understanding of interpretation—that different minds can construct different interpretations of the same reality. Additionally, we consider children's growing understanding of how mental states (thoughts, emotions, decisions) derive from personal experiences, cohere across time, and interconnect (e.g., thoughts shape emotions). We close with a discussion of the surprising paucity of studies investigating individual differences in ToM beyond age 6. Our hope is that this chapter will invigorate empirical interest in moving the pendulum toward the opposite research direction—toward exploring strengths, limitations, variability, and persistent errors in developing theories of mind across the life span.