The Child's Theory of Mind


Do children have a theory of mind? If they do, at what age is it acquired? What is the content of the theory, and how does it differ from that of adults? The Child's Theory of Mind integrates the diverse strands of this rapidly expanding field of study. It charts children's knowledge about a fundamental topic—the mind—and characterizes that developing knowledge as a coherent commonsense theory, strongly advancing the understanding of everyday theories as well as the commonsense theory of mind.

Wellman presents evidence that children as young as age three do possess a commonsense theory of mind—that they grasp the distinction between mental constructs and physical entities and that they have an understanding of the relationship between individuals' mental states and their overt actions. He delves in detail into questions about the nature of adults' commonsense theories of mind and about the nature of commonsense theories.

Wellman then examines the content of the three-year-old's theory of mind, the nature of children's notions of mind before age three, the changes in the theory during subsequent development from ages three to six, and the young child's conception of mind in comparison with those of older children and adults.

Table of Contents

  1. Series Foreword
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. 1. Children, Theories, and the Mind: An Introduction
  4. 2. Understanding the Basic Distinction between Mental and Physical Phenomena
  5. 3. Young Children's Understanding of Belief
  6. 4. Commonsense Belief-Desire Psychology
  7. 5. Everyday Theories
  8. 6. Young Children's Belief-Desire Psychology
  9. 7. Further Clarifications of the Theory and the Data
  10. 8. Before Three
  11. 9. From Three to Six: From Copies and Imaginings to Interpretations
  12. 10. From Three to Six: Other Implications
  13. 11. Beyond Six
  14. 12. Conclusions
  15. Notes
  16. References
  17. Index