and H. Rakoczy

Foundations of theory of mind and its development in early childhood

Nature Reviews Psychology

Theory of mind is the human conceptual capacity to understand other people as agents who have subjective mental states such as beliefs, desires, and intentions. It is the basis of distinctively human forms of social understanding and interaction that are essential for communication, cooperation, and culture. In this Review, I summarize the current state of research about the emergence and development of theory of mind in early childhood. I describe the typical developmental trajectory and review findings about the cognitive, linguistic, social and neural foundations of theory of mind development. Finally, I review an ongoing debate regarding whether there are different — implicit versus explicit — forms of theory of mind that develop independently, and conclude by providing an outlook on future challenges and perspectives for research in this area.