Theory of mind


Theory of mind is a theory insofar as the mind is not directly observable.[2] The presumption that others have a mind is termed a theory of mind because each human can only prove the existence of his or her own mind through introspection, and no one has direct access to the mind of another. It is typically assumed that others have minds by analogy with one’s own, and based on the reciprocal nature of social interaction, as observed in joint attention, [3] the functional use of language,[4] and understanding of others’ emotions and actions.[5] Having a theory of mind allows one to attribute thoughts, desires, and intentions to others, to predict or explain their actions, and to posit their intentions. As originally defined, it enables one to understand that mental states can be the cause of—and thus be used to explain and predict—others’ behavior.[6] Being able to attribute mental states to others and understanding them as causes of behavior implies, in part, that one must be able to conceive of the mind as a “generator of representations”.[7][8] If a person does not have a complete theory of mind it may be a sign of cognitive or developmental impairment.

Theory of mind appears to be an innate potential ability in humans, but one requiring social and other experience over many years to bring to fruition. Different people may develop more, or less, effective theories of mind. Empathy is a related concept, meaning experientially recognizing and understanding the states of mind, including beliefs, desires and particularly emotions of others, often characterized as the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes.” Theorizing in the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development maintains that theory of mind is a byproduct of a broader hypercognitive ability of the human mind to register, monitor, and represent its own functioning.

via Theory of mind – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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