2-2 | Theory of Mind: How Children Understand Others' Thoughts and Feelings

New York: Psychology Press, 2009. References, diagrams, figures, photographs, notes, glossary, indices. 264 pp. $31.95 paper. ISBN: 9781841695716
Rebekah A. Richert

In Theory of Mind: How Children Understand Others’ Thoughts and Feelings, Martin J. Doherty presents an accessible and thorough summary of the history and evolution of research into children’s theory of mind (ToM) understanding. Developing ToM understanding is a key accomplishment in children’s cognitive and social development. In chapter 2, Doherty indicates that understanding others’ intentions, desires, and beliefs allows us to predict, explain, and manipulate others’ behaviors. The importance of these skills for human cognition should not be underestimated, and Doherty concisely outlines what thirty years of research have to say about how children of different ages understand various mental states. Doherty concludes a key shift occurs in children’s understanding of false beliefs between the ages of three and four, at which time many researchers claim children have developed theory of mind (ToM) understanding. Doherty discusses the likely precursors to this understanding—pretense and the understanding of visual attention.