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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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Communication, Relationships, and Individual Differences in Children’s Understanding of Mind

Communication, Relationships, and Individual Differences in Children’s Understanding of Mind

(p.50) 3 Communication, Relationships, and Individual Differences in Children’s Understanding of Mind
Why Language Matters for Theory of Mind

Judy Dunn

Marcia Brophy

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the communicational aspect of language and its role in children's developing theory of mind. It presumes that participation in communicative exchanges underlies theory-of-mind development. However, and most important, it argues that the nature and efficacy of the communicative exchange is influenced by the quality of the relationship between the communicative participants. It claims that children's communicative experiences within close, familiar relationships play a central role in the development of understanding mind and emotion. Children's participation in discourse about mental states predicts later differences in theory-of-mind understanding, over and above other contributing factors such as cooperative play. In order to understand relations between theory of mind and language, children's language experiences must be examined not solely in terms of a cognitive skill or individual characteristic but also in terms of children's dyadic experiences. The aspects of conversation that are relevant to theory of mind depend on characteristics of both child and interlocutor, and on the relationship between them.

Keywords:   language, children, theory of mind, emotion, conversation, mental states, relationships, dyadic experiences, communicative exchanges

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