1st Edition

Theory of Mind How Children Understand Others' Thoughts and Feelings

By Martin Doherty Copyright 2009
    264 Pages 33 B/W Illustrations
    by Psychology Press

    264 Pages 33 B/W Illustrations
    by Psychology Press

    264 Pages 33 B/W Illustrations
    by Psychology Press

    Most of us are continually aware that others have thoughts and feelings – but are children? When? This book is a concise and readable review of the extensive research into children’s understanding of what other people think and feel, a central topic in developmental psychology known as "Theory of Mind".

    The understanding of belief is central to this text, which explains in simple terms what representational theory of mind is all about, and shows how researchers have demonstrated this understanding in 4-year-olds. The book considers what leads to this understanding, including the role of pretend play, understanding of attention and eye direction, and other precursors to representational understanding of mind. The general relevance of theory of mind is demonstrated through coverage of the development of other mental state concepts, and the relationship between understanding mental representation and other representational media. The author also carefully summarizes current research on the relationship between theory of mind and concurrent developments in executive functioning, and the understanding of language. The book closes by considering autism. A major achievement of theory of mind research is the light it has helped throw on this puzzling developmental disorder.

    Providing a comprehensive overview of 25 years of research into theory of mind, the book will be of great interest to both students and researchers in psychology, philosophy and the cognitive sciences.

    Introduction to Theory of Mind. Understanding Belief. Theories of Theory of Mind. Associated Developments 1: Beyond Belief. Associated Developments 2: Understanding Non-Mental Representation. Precursors 1: Pretence. Precursors 2: Understanding Visual Attention. Developmental Interactions 1: Executive Functioning and Theory of Mind. Developmental Interactions 2: Language and Theory of Mind. Autism.


    Martin J. Doherty was born in Sheffield, and studied Psychology at the University of Bristol. After an MSc in Cognitive Science at the University of Warwick, he completed a PhD at the University of Sussex. He is now a Lecturer at the University of Stirling.

    "[Theory of Mind has] substantial merits as an overview of a fascinating subject. It should be read by students and researchers alike to great advantage." - Daniel Acquah, University of Nottingham, UK, in the British Journal of Psychology

    "Martin Doherty’s review of the field from the perspective of developmental psychology is a timely, coherent, and concise overview of the types of research that have been conducted to date. ... The book is pitched well for an undergraduate audience, covering the basics as well as offering insights that will be of interest to all those working in the field at any level. ... The book stands as an important addition to students of the field ... I would be delighted to recommend this book to my students." - N.L. Gjersoe, University of Bristol, UK in Perception

    "Accessible and thorough ... Theory of Mind is an excellent resource for scholars and lay readers interested in learning about children’s ToM development. The book is timely because it provides a cohesive synthesis of past research and theory on ToM understanding. There is much more for scholars in this field to learn about not only how children develop an understanding of mental states, but also how this understanding is used (or misused) in the general course of cognitive and social development. This book is a good place to start." - Rebekah A. Richert, University of California, Riverside, USA, in the American Journal of Play

    "The book has a number of strengths and frankly, should be required reading for anybody interested in theory of mind, developmental psychology, or autism. ... Any reader will find this book to be extremely accessible." - Lucas Keefer in Metapsychology Online Reviews

    "It provides an excellent overview of the field, written with clarity and thoroughness and presented from a point of view that will give you maximal ability to communicate and interact with current mainstream researchers. As such, it is ideal for people looking to begin ToM work without banging their heads against complex philosophical puzzles." - Eric Charles in PsycCRITIQUES

    "GREAT READ! This is an excellent introduction for students at all levels and for researchers wanting to brush up on recent developments. It is up to date, with an eye on theory and social relevance, and is amenable without shying away from difficult theoretical points." - Josef Perner, Department of Psychology and Centre for Neurocognitive Research, University of Salzburg, Austria

    "For the uninitiated, Doherty's book is a useful and very readable account of the current state of play in the developmental literature on theory of mind. For old hands it also gives an authoritative update on the influential view that developments in 2- to 4-year-olds' understanding of the mind reflect more general developments in understanding representations." - Ian Apperly, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK

    "For more than twenty years, "theory of mind" has been a fast-growing area of research in developmental psychology. Martin Doherty provides an up-to-the-minute summary of this now vast literature, including clear analysis of the various theoretical debates. This splendid book will prove invaluable to established researchers as well as newcomer students." - Janet Wilde Astington, Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto, Canada