THEORY OF MIND
The phrase "theory of mind" refers to
a specific cognitive capacity: the ability to understand that others
have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's
own. Empathy is a related concept, meaning experientially recognizing
and understanding the states of mind, including beliefs, desires
and particularly emotions of others without injecting your own,
often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's
shoes". Children are supposed to develop 'theory of the mind'
at around four years of age.
history of theory of mind
There has also been speculation that certain humans
fail to progress through the normal cognitive developmental stages
that lead to acquisition of a theory of mind. In 1985 Baron-Cohen,
Leslie and Frith published an article called "Does the autistic
child have a theory of mind?" in which it was suggested that
the human brain normally has a "theory of mind module"
and that this particular component of the brain may not develop
normally in some people. More recently, Dr Simon Baron-Cohen published
a book called Mindblindness that explores this theory of
difficulties with social interaction
By not understanding that other people think differently
than themselves, individuals on the autism spectrum may have difficulties
in social interactions with other people. They may not understand
and become upset if someone does not know the answer to a question.
They will have trouble anticipating what others will say or do in
a variety of situations, and their difficulty in understanding that
others have thoughts and emotions can make the autistic person appear
self-centered, eccentric, or uncaring.
theory of mind and telling lies
Many autistic individuals have difficulties in
and theory of mind is proposed as a reason. Individuals with Autism
may believe that others always know what they are thinking. While
not pleasant for teachers or parents, the beginning of telling lies
in a child can be positive in that it is a developmental milestone.
Social stories and theory of mind
A common strategy for dealing with these issues
is using social
stories to help individuals with Autism
'read' and understand social situations. Social stories are used
to explain appropriate social behaviors. It was developed by Carol
Gray and seeks to include answers to questions that autistic persons
may need to know to interact appropriately with others (for example,
answers to who, what, when, where, and why in social situations).
The use of social stories can motivate children to question why
others see the world in different ways.
Click here for the full
range of Asperger's and Autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
Click here to read a personal
story of a parent's attempts to teach is son empathy for others
This autism fact sheet is licensed under the
Free Documentation. It is derivative of an Autism and Asperger's
syndrome-related articles at http://en.wikipedia.org