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Why Language Matters for Theory of Mind$
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Janet Wilde Astington and Jodie A. Baird

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195159912

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195159912.001.0001

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Language Pathways into the Community of Minds

Language Pathways into the Community of Minds

(p.26) 2 Language Pathways into the Community of Minds
Why Language Matters for Theory of Mind

Katherine Nelson

Oxford University Press

This chapter reconceptualizes the acquisition of a “theory of mind” as entering into a “community of minds,” where language plays a central role. This reconceptualization is necessary, the chapter argues, because theory of mind is too narrowly construed as a separate cognitive domain to the exclusion of domain general achievements (including language, memory, inference) and social experiences (such as attachment, play, and conversation). Moreover, the chapter asserts that the developmental process some researchers claim to explain advances in children's theory of mind—namely, theory construction and revision—is unwarranted. This chapter argues that entering into the community of minds is a developmental process made possible through language. It makes a special case for the emergence of the representational function of language that allows children to go beyond their own private thoughts and beliefs to consider the thoughts and beliefs of others. This is a Vygotskian view, in which children's experience with external verbal representations in social discourse supports the development of internal verbal representation.

Keywords:   Vygotskian view, children, theory of mind, community of minds, language, thoughts, beliefs, verbal representations, social experiences

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