Theory of Mind and Perspective Taking

Theory of Mind is the ability to not only understand that people have different beliefs, motivations, knowledge and moods but also understand how that affects their actions and behavior as well as our own. Theory of Mind is a necessary component of perspective taking.

Perspective taking refers to our ability to relate to others. It is our ability to perceive someone else’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations. In other words it refers to our ability to empathize with someone else and see things from their perspective.

Most people can intuitively tell how someone else feels in a conversation. When they speak to someone who’s looking around and not paying attention, they perceive the person is not interested in the conversation or is distracted for some reason. They know if they see tears in the person’s eyes that the person is upset.

Not a Sign of Intelligence
Someone with Theory of Mind Impairment will also have poor perspective taking skills. They will miss many of these cues. In some cases they may miss all of these cues. As with many other factors contributing to social skills deficits, one can be of gifted intelligence and not have effective perspective taking skills.

Theory of Mind and Perspective taking skills begin to develop in the womb and continue throughout our lives. A newborn child should try to imitate facial expressions within the first few weeks of life. This is quickly followed by pointing, the development of language and joint attention by twelve months.

By Age Two
By age two, the ability to understand what is in the mind of others and that they are different with their own needs and desires. Children at this age are learning how to “get their way” through give and take as well as manipulation. They are also becoming aware of other’s efforts to manipulate their behavior and are developing strategies for dealing with such attempts.

Children who have difficulty understanding the motivations of themselves or others have some level of perspective taking dysfunction. This is also true of children who have difficulty developing strategies for give and take.

These children will continue to have difficulty with social situations throughout their lives. Social Skills Therapy is necessary.

If you are concerned about your child’s social development either call (914) 488-5282, or fill out the form on the right side of the page for more information about how we can help.

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Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More