Theory of Mind and Children

Topics: Theory of mind, Developmental psychology, Standardized test Pages: 5 (2036 words) Published: November 7, 2012
Theory of mind is an important concept to understand as educators of children in the early years as it is developed through children’s interactions with their peers, families, educators and diverse environments (Whites, Hayes and Livesey, 2010) Theory of mind can be defined as the understanding of mental states, such as belief, desire and knowledge, that enables us to explain and predict other’s behaviour (Miller, 2006).It is the ability to perceive what another person might be thinking or might know (Whites, Hayes and Livesey, 2010 ). This essay will examine the influence that language has on Theory of mind, using four research articles, which identify different methods and results used. According to Slade and Ruffman (2005) language influence on Theory of mind is the most important research as it can teach us about children’s early cognitive skills, their language ability and how much they really understand. It has become a focal point in research of developmental psychology in young children over the years (Hale and Tager-Flusberg, 2003). Grazzani and Ornaghi’s (2012) focus was based on determining if children in middle childhood had the ability to use language in their daily life with terminologies that are familiar in their local region. This study involved 110 children from the ages of 9 to 11 (Grazzani and Ornaghi, 2012). Within their design they had six tasks/tests for the children to complete, five of which were measures for the child’s technical ability with right or wrong answers and one a narrative task that the child that examined the child’s psychological lexicon (Miller, 2006). These tasks that the children had to complete showed how a child’s comprehension for psychological lexicon, or terminology commonly used in the area that the study was taken place in, continues to by highly significant in the children as they grow through to middle childhood (Grazzani and Ornaghi, 2012). The cross-sectional design included 6 measures that involve the children complete. These are a verbal ability test where children are being assessed on their understanding of metacognitive language, frequency and type of psychological lexicons used (Grazzani and Ornaghi, 2012). A test of emotion comprehension which entails children are breaking down information and then explaining what they have understood from it (Grazzani and Ornaghi, 2012). A test for metacognitive and metalinguistic verb comprehension, which is similar to the emotion comprehension but has stories where children need to discuss the verbs used (Grazzani and Ornaghi, 2012). Finally a task called ‘Describe-a-friend’ where the children use language to describe and talk about a friend and how close they are (Grazzani and Ornaghi, 2012). There are a few limitations in this method design used. As this was a short study, the result are limited to what the participants abilities are and how they could grow further with the research that they are being a part of (Miller, 2006). Another limitation that needs mentioning is how without the prior knowledge of the children’s ability they could not commence the research appropriately as the children would not have been able to complete or take part in particular tasks or tests without the prior knowledge of what was expected of them (Grazzani and Ornaghi, 2012). This research study contributes to the body of knowledge on the topic on theory of mind as it suggests that from a young age children develop their understandings of emotional language and learn early on how to vocalize their emotions or how to describe the emotions of others. This is seen through the microgenetic format used (White, Hayes and Levees, 2012). The main focus in Hale and Tager-Flusberg (2003) microgenetic study investigates the relationship between children’s development of language and theory of mind. This study involving sixty preschoolers aged two years and then again when these children where four years old, used standardized tests, self-reports and...
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