Non-linearities in Theory-of-Mind Development

Els M. A. Blijd-Hoogewys*, Paul L. C. van Geert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Research on Theory-of-Mind (ToM) has mainly focused on ages of core ToM development. This article follows a quantitative approach focusing on the level of ToM understanding on a measurement scale, the ToM Storybooks, in 324 typically developing children between 3 and 11 years of age. It deals with the eventual occurrence of developmental non-linearities in ToM functioning, using smoothing techniques, dynamic growth model building and additional indicators, namely moving skewness, moving growth rate changes and moving variability. The ToM sum-scores showed an overall developmental trend that leveled off toward the age of 10 years. Within this overall trend two non-linearities in the group-based change pattern were found: a plateau at the age of around 56 months and a dip at the age of 7278 months. These temporary regressions in ToM sum-score were accompanied by a decrease in growth rate and variability, and a change in skewness of the ToM data, all suggesting a developmental shift in ToM understanding. The temporary decreases also occurred in the different ToM sub-scores and most clearly so in the core ToM component of beliefs. It was also found that girls had an earlier growth spurt than boys and that the underlying developmental path was more salient in girls than in boys. The consequences of these findings are discussed from various theoretical points of view, with an emphasis on a dynamic systems interpretation of the underlying developmental paths.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1970
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4-Jan-2017

Keywords

  • Theory-of-Mind
  • ToM_Storybooks
  • development
  • dynamic_systems_theory
  • non-linearities
  • anomaly
  • AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
  • ATTENTION-DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER
  • MIRROR NEURON SYSTEM
  • U-SHAPED DEVELOPMENT
  • FALSE-BELIEF
  • EXECUTIVE FUNCTION
  • COGNITIVE-DEVELOPMENT
  • LANGUAGE-DEVELOPMENT
  • INTRAINDIVIDUAL VARIABILITY
  • INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES

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