M. van Weerdenburg
- Dynamics of the Theory of Mind construct: a delevopmental perspective
- The European Journal of Developmental Psychology
- Volume | Issue number
- 7 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
Theory of Mind (ToM) encompasses a wide variety of abilities, which develop during childhood. However, to date most ToM research has focused on the single concept of false-belief understanding, and examined ToM only in young children. Furthermore, there is a lack of implementation of a longitudinal design, which examines the dynamics of the ToM construct over several years. Our longitudinal study measured the abilities of a group of 5-year-old children (n = 77) in mainstream education during three consecutive years, on aspects of ToM related to emotion understanding and false-belief understanding. The results provide support for significant improvements in emotion understanding and false-belief understanding between the ages of 5 and 7. Whereas emotion attribution was already largely developed at age 5, more intricate aspects of emotion understanding, such as understanding display rules and understanding mixed emotions showed significant developments. Over the course of the years, children also showed an increasing awareness of false-belief understanding. In addition to the developmental growth, the different ToM aspects were found to be relatively stable over time. Correlations as well as predictive relations between emotion understanding and false-belief understanding could be identified. Finally, there was evidence for the role of language ability in the development of the ToM aspects under consideration. The results support the notion that ToM abilities measured at age 5 are not just a snapshot but provide a longer-term outlook as well.
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