The table below lists the development trends on perspective taking and theory of mind for children from kindergarten to high school.

Grade Level Age-Typical Characteristics Suggested Strategies
K-2
  • Awareness that mental events are not physical entities
  • Awareness that others' knowledge and thoughts may be different from one's own
  • Ability to draw inferences about people's thoughts, feelings, and intentions from their behaviors, albeit in a simplistic manner (e.g., "She's sad")
  • Talk frequently about people's thoughts, feelings, and motives; use words such as think, remember, feel, and want.
  • Ask questions about thoughts, feelings, and motives during storybook readings.
3-5
  • Growing recognition that others interpret (rather than simply absorb) experiences and so may misconstrue events
  • Realization that other people's actions may hide their true feelings
  • As students read literature, ask them to consider why various characters might behave as they do.
  • Have students speculate about what people might have been thinking and feeling during events in history.
  • Help students resolve interpersonal conflicts by asking them to consider one another's perspectives and develop a solution that addresses everyone's needs.
6-8
  • Increasing interest in other people's thoughts and feelings
  • Recognition that people may have multiple and possibly conflicting motives and emotions
  • Ability to think recursively about one's own and others' thoughts
  • Encourage students to look at historical and current events from the perspective of various historical figures and cultural groups; use role-playing activities to enhance perspective taking.
  • In discussions of literature, talk about other people's complex (and sometimes conflicting) motives.
9-12
  • Recognition that people are products of their environment and that past events and present circumstances influence personality and behavior
  • Realization that people are not always aware of why they act as they do
  • Explore the possible origins of people's perspectives and motives in discussions of real and fictional events .
  • Schedule debates in which students must present convincing arguments for perspectives opposite to their own.
  • Offer units or courses in psychology, with a focus on such internal activities as cognition, motivation, and emotion.

Sources: Astington & Pelletier, 1996; Bosacki, 2000; Brophy & Alleman, 1996; Brophy & VanSledright, 1997; Eisenberg, Carlo, Murphy, & Van Court, 1995; Flanagan & Tucker, 1999; Flavell, 2000; Flavell, Green, & Flavell, 1995; Flavell & Miller, 1998; Flavell et al., 2002; Harter & Whitesell, 1989; Pemer & Wimmer, 1985; Ruffman, Slade, & Crowe, 2002; Schult, 2002; Selman, 1980; Wellman, 1990; Wellman et al., 2001; Wellman, Phillips, & Rodriguez, 2000; Woolfe, Want, & Siegal, 2002; Woolley, 1995.