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ERIC Number: ED568688
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Oct
Pages: 4
Abstractor: As Provided
How Is Theory of Mind Useful? Perhaps to Enable Social Pretend Play
Dore, Rebecca A.; Smith, Eric D.; Lillard, Angeline S.
Grantee Submission, Frontiers in Psychology v6 Article 1559 p1-4 Oct 2015
It is often claimed that theory of mind is facilitated by pretend play. This perspective piece challenges that view, proposing instead that theory of mind might be useful for driving social pretend play, rather than the reverse. There is a fundamental similarity between pretend play and theory of mind. Pretend play involves projecting a different reality onto a situation, all while knowing what the real situation is. Similarly, understanding false belief--a foundational skill in theory of ind--involves understanding that someone is projecting a different reality onto a situation, when one knows what the real situation is. Hence it is possible that pretend play engenders theory of mind by giving children practice at projecting representations that differ from reality onto that reality. However, across many studies, findings are inconsistent. Overall, the evidence is not strongly supportive of a causal relationship in which pretend play promotes theory of mind skills. Two other possibilities should be given equal consideration: a third variable underpinning both theory of mind and pretend play, and reverse directionality, in which better theory of mind skills enable pretend play--making pretend play one reason why theory of mind is useful. One longitudinal study finds this reverse relationship (Jenkins and Astington, 2000) and more studies should be designed to test this possibility. Given the state of the research, why is it so often assumed that pretend play helps theory of mind? Researchers might be swayed by what Smith (1988) called "play ethos," the strong belief that pretend play promotes development. But embracing the idea that pretend play promotes theory of mind without solid evidence is not beneficial, and may even be indirectly harmful if such efforts detract from undertakings with better-established effectiveness. [This article was published in "Frontiers in Psychology," v6 Article 1559 p1-4 Oct 2015.]
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Institute of Education Sciences (ED); National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
IES Funded: Yes
Grant or Contract Numbers: 342174; 1024293