Theory of mind refers to the everyday understanding that an individual’s actions are caused by internal mental states, such as beliefs, desires, and intentions. Because of its role in establishing an understanding of human behavior, many have proposed that theory of mind is the cornerstone of successful social interaction. It has also been proposed that theory of mind abnormalities may be a crucial feature of clinical syndromes in which social interaction is especially impaired. This entry discusses the historical context, factors affecting theory of mind development, and theory of mind in certain adult clinical conditions.

History in Comparative Psychology and Cognitive Development

The term theory of mind came into widespread use in 1978 when David Premack and Guy Woodruff presented data suggesting that enculturated chimpanzees might have ...

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