chapter  6
22 Pages

Individual Differences in Theory of Mind: The Preschool Years and Beyond

WithThomas Keenan

Given increasing evidence of a link between children’s understanding of false beliefs and their social functioning (e.g., Lalonde & Chandler, 1995; Peterson & Siegal, 2002; Slaughter, Dennis, & Pritchard, 2002; Watson, Nixon, Wilson, & Capage, 1999), it is important to reexamine the notion of individual differences in theory of mind. It is likely that delays or deficits in the formation and/or deployment of a theory of mind may have important consequences for social development. In this chapter, some of the possibilities are outlined. The first thing to be considered is the form that individual differences in theory of mind might take. This is followed by a consideration of the some of the empirical evidence that connects theory of mind to social development. Specifically, this is illustrated by examining the link between children’s performance on theory of mind tasks and their status within the peer group. Finally, theory of mind development beyond the preschool years is discussed in terms of individual differences and the implications for later social functioning.