Children and Theory of Mind

How does a child decide that other people have a mind and are conscious? Getting knowledge about other people simply by listen to them and watching them may seem like an impossible task. Maybe this approach does not describe what a young child is doing. 

The idea that your mum and dad do not have a mind may be the wrong starting point. Young children show empathy and understanding to other people feelings and desires and it may seem strange that they do not pass the false-belief test (make predictions about the actions of other people based upon what they want, see and believe).
Ideas about a theory of mind are often based upon the assumption that children do not understand that other peoples have a mind. Their failure of solving certain tasks is taken as evidence that they have not yet developed an understanding that other people have a mind. But maybe this assumption is not an accurate starting point. 
Young children do not ponder over whether their parents/caregivers are alive. Babies and young children have a close relationship with their parents/ caregivers and maybe they do not doubt other people  have a mind. It is not possible to trust and rely upon other people if you do not believe that the person have thoughts and feelings. Doubting that your parents/caregivers have a mind does not seem like a serious starting point for developing close relationships with other people. It is not practical to doubt that other people have a mind and children may act and behave according to this principle until they have experienced several situations where their views may differ. These situations may force a young child to explore how the world looks like from other person’s perspective and later doubt that other people do indeed have a mind.

Photo: “Child Hugging Teddy Bear” by Clare Bloomfield

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