Theory of Mind (ToM) Def: Refers to an individual human’s concept that other’s have minds and accordingly how to interact with other minds.
Origin: ToM is an inevitable evolutionary effect of being a highly cognitive social organism with relatively sophisticated intersubjective communication and cooperation between individuals. Further enhanced with evolution of linguistic complexity.
ToM is acquired latently through natural socialization and is developed further depending on individual personality and education.
Developmental psychology theory directly links ToM onset to linguistic onset around 3 years old. This is shown in lab when toddlers demonstrate that someone doesn’t know what they know about a hidden toy if they leave the room when it’s hidden.
Degree and Variance of Quality: ToM can be so limited it’s pathological or so sophisticated it can give great power for influence, leadership, manipulation, or therapy, and the like. Developmental disorders such as those on the Down Syndrome Spectrum or linguistic or socialization abnormalities are common causes for a “weak” theory of mind. “Alternative” ToM would occur with psycho- and sociopathic individuals, and “advanced” ToM in trained* and/or highly empathetic individuals.
It also does not stand alone but has interrelationships with other brain regions and cognitive faculties. If you look more it is even reflexive in many ways, which makes sense because as you ponder and study the minds of others your mind and it’s place and potential will also be addressed.
Regardless of any of the myriad rewards and benefits to investing in your ToM, it’s a healthy and engaging way to experience your social world as well as mature into an outstanding human. ToM development can only improve your relationships and reduce your social anxiety, along with eliminate prejudices and conceit of others — Or just about any negative thoughts or feelings that are due to a lack of understanding, confused understanding, or avoidance of understanding.
Theory of mind is a social tool as well as an intellectual asset and a developed ToM is a life advantage.
Coming Soon is “The Problem of Other Minds”, a philosophical twist on ToM!
*How to be a pro-grade mind theorist:
Study: Broadly, social and linguistic anthropology, social and cognitive psychology. More specifically, cultural relativism, fundamental attribution error, mature of human experience, cognition/neuroscience of attention, perception, language, memory.
Practice: listen and ask, let other’s guide discourse and practice staying on there topic and offer your own only when asked to, think openly and nonjudgementally so you can experience as many types of people as you can, be observant of context and how people are reactive and responsive to it, note how people perceive their behavior as independent or associated to other things, never get upset or bored with someone but find ways of learning about their style, note any culture or group or person you feel negative about or can’t image being and neutralize it.