Understanding one’s social world is an essential human skill required for navigating social encounters. Ironically, social understanding is essential for our human way of life, yet it tends to be overlooked and taken for granted. But children go through a gradual process of mastering skills in social interaction, and individuals can vary greatly in their social sensitivity. This is most evident with individuals on the autism spectrum who tend to lack typical, easy ways of engaging with others. In the 1970s, social understanding was described as perspective taking and role taking and as children’s theories of mind beginning in the mid-1980s. This entry describes the development of social understanding beginning with early forms such as gaze following and gestures, and extending to understanding beliefs, emotions, ...

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