Perspective Taking and Theory of Mind at Different Grade Levels

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Oct 25, 2010

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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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