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Theory of Mind is vital to the development of social skills Essay

Throughout development stages, children learn to understand people around them including peers and adults. From such understanding, they are able to appreciate the fact that there are inherent differences among themselves in terms of what an individual knows, believes and wants.

In other words, they come to realize that the likelihood of having diverse goals and objectives is real as we possess diverse personalities and overall viewpoint over life. It is from this perspective that some theorists argue that this kind of understanding is referred to as “misreading other’s minds”. Nevertheless, this is known as theory of the mind or social cognition. This essay discusses how theory of mind is vital to the development of social skills.

Theory of the mind simply refers to the ability of a person to relate his mental attributes like desires, beliefs and knowledge to himself and those around and appreciate that other people may possess these attributes differently (Astington & Edward, 2010). Although this definition exploits philosophical thoughts, theory of the mind is different from what is known as philosophy of the mind.

This tries to explore several aspects of the mind since we cannot see what happens in our mind and in the mind of others. As such, what goes on in the mind of others can only be perceived due to lack of direct access. Through comparison, it is deduced that other people have a mind based on their ability to socially interact, proper use of the language and the comprehending of other people’s emotions and actions in response to what could be happening around (Schick, n.d.).

Theory of mind therefore permits people to attribute intensions and thoughts to others in attempt to explain their behavior and perceive possible intentions. Additionally the theory allows people to understand the role of the mental state of a person in explaining their intensions and overall behavior.

This ability to predict and understand other’s behavior and actions is quiet essential in developing and maintaining social relationships in the society (Renouf et al., 2010). In this regard, one is able to visualize the mind as the source of all forms of representations and any form of incompleteness could imply development or cognitive impairment.

Although theory of mind is considered natural in human beings, its fruition requires a wide range of experiences, which may take a number of years. Due to variations among human beings, people tend to develop theories of mind that are different in terms of their effectiveness (Astington & Edward, 2010).

The implication of this is the difference in its impact in the understanding of people’s intentions and behavior, which are imperative in developing certain aspects of one’s social skills. For instance, empathy is always perceived as the ability to recognize other people’s state of mind and is characterized by experiencing another person’s feelings and emotions as a result of what may have happened. Research indicates that theory of mind emanates from the ability of the mind to recognize, scrutinize and illustrate its entire functioning.

Theory of mind is crucial during early development stages of a child as the kid learns to familiarize himself or herself with people around or peers. These social skills make a solid foundation to fit in the society and develop relationships with other members of the society. As noted by Astington and Edward in their 2010 research, development of theory of mind is essential during early stages of human development.

The two argued that social cognition has the ability to help children cope with other people around by allowing them to view life from their own perspectives (Astington & Edward, 2010). All the same, the fundamental principle behind this ability to integrate well and develop social skills that are relevant depends on proper development of theory of mind.

In explaining this concept, it is equally important to note that theory of mind allows a person to have the capability to understand others mentally, considering different mental states which include but not limited to feelings, thoughts and motives. Besides enabling us to understand others mentally, this theory further permits an individual to explain his or her inherent behavior to others by allowing them to know the nature of our thoughts and what we desire to have (Hughes & Leekam, 2004).

In understanding theory of mind and development of social skills, it is vital to emphasize that this theory affects children during different stages of development. For instance, infants are usually quick to interact with family members and other people around and also impel others to interact. It therefore follows that infants are active socially.

This can be explained by focusing on a broader sense of the theory of mind, encompassing the understanding of various states including cognition, emotion, desire and intention. From this perspective, it is possible to explain how infants begin integrating into the world around them at the age of around six months as they are able to differentiate mechanical movement from biological (Hughes & Leekam, 2004).

These abilities further help infants to attend to certain behaviors and be able to view surrounding activities from the agent’s point of view. This progressive development allows infants at the age of twelve months to expect a goal from the other person in a more economical manner. Furthermore, this crucial ability to recognize intentional actions is of great significance in laying the foundation for communicative and social development.

During toddlerhood, children derive a lot of pleasure from imaginative play which triggers the initiation and advancement of the social contact. These “pretend play” skills are essential in co-operative interactions among siblings. It normally has a positive impact on the social life of children since siblings’ interactions are known to have great social-development impact. In addition, theory of mind is a major tool during language development in children (Renouf et al., 2010).

This understanding of the internal state of language allows children to demonstrate their consciousness about feelings, desires and emotions. At pre-school, children are able to comprehend emotions from a sophisticated point of view. They gain the ability to identify the difference between the appearance and feelings of people around them. They are also able to react towards certain events that may have caused alteration of their current or previous mood.

Similarly, these children experience two emotions that are conflicting concurrently. The main advantage of these developments is the fact that they enable children to be “mind-readers” and change their communal interactions (Hughes & Leekam, 2004). This understanding among preschoolers is highly associated with positive peer interactions, empathy and the capability to adhere to rules in order to manage emotional reactions.

Additionally, children at this age appreciate that one’s ability and personality play a major role in determining human behavior. This concept later becomes crucial in shaping the social life of children and in making of friends.

Throughout this stage of development, children show preferences of various social partners, indicating their ability to connect and converse with other children without depending on older people (Hughes & Leekam, 2004). It therefore suffices to mention that theory of mind development shows the manner in which children interact with their social partners.

As children advance in age, they further expand their knowledge about mental representations. Through this process, they are able to understand misconceptions about some beliefs, how biases and expectations impact on individual’s ability to internalize ambiguous events, differences in lies and comprehension of both mixed and undecided feelings (Hughes & Leekam, 2004).

Importantly, this stage of theory of mind enhances harmonic social coexistence as a result of few conflicts emanating from misunderstandings. In addition, children acquire a wide range of skills that are essential in avoiding situations which may lead to embarrassment.

In most cases, theory of mind development also allows individuals to gain clarity of motives, which is important in the manipulation of various social situations that arise. Although most children may exhibit high levels of physical aggression, middle childhood is characterized by relational aggregation, a behavior that extends to adulthood. Research also indicates that bullies develop higher theory of mind skills as compared to other people in the society.

This affects their socialization as they are physically aggressive and hostile. On the other hand, development in theory of mind when a child is underage may lead to extreme sensitivity to criticism, which may breed low self-esteem and nervousness (Hughes & Leekam, 2004).

From this discussion, it is clear that theory of mind is important in development of social skills, a process which begins at infancy and proceeds to adulthood. Throughout these development stages, people gain finer social skills to adapt to different situations in the social setup.


Astington, J., & Edward, M. (2010). The Development of Theory of Mind in Early Childhood. Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Development. Retrieved from

Hughes, C., & Leekam, S. (2004). What are the Links between Theory of Mind and Social Relations? Review, Reflections and New Directions for Studies of Typical and Atypical Development. Social Development, 13(4), 590-619.

Renouf et al. (2010). Relations between Theory of Mind and Indirect and Physical Aggression in Kindergarten: Evidence of the Moderating Role of Pro-social Behaviors. Social Development, 19(3), 535-555.

Schick, B. (n.d.). Social Cognition & Theory of Mind. Communication Considerations. Retrieved from

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Theory of Mind is vital to the development of social skills'. 21 May.

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