Play, Social-Emotional Development and Theory of Mind: Three Imprtans Aspects in Child Development
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As social beings one of the most important tasks during childhood is to develop adequate social and communicative skills, to enable successful interaction with the wide variety of people and situations encountered throughout life (Moore, 2010). Social cognition refers to the understanding of our own behaviour and that of others, and is at the heart of an individual’s ability to get along with other people (Astington & Olson, 2010). The foundations of social competence that are developed in the first few years of life have been closely linked to a child’s later ability to functionally adapt in school and to form successful relationships throughout life (Cohen, 2005). The No Child Left Behind Act brought in in 2001 in the US, requires that…show more content… This increases the likelihood of early academic and social success, which has been shown to resonate into adulthood (Ladd, 1999).
Humans make sense of the world by making reference to the behaviour and internal psychological states, e.g. emotions, thought and desires of themselves and others (Moore, 2010). This ability is commonly known as theory of mind (ToM). ToM was defined as understanding that mental states can cause behaviour and therefore be used to explain and predict the behaviour of others (Premack & Woodruff, 1978). Over the years ToM has come to encompass three additional and interlinked phenomena; a cognitive structure leading to certain abilities; a research area investigating the development of certain abilities; and theoretical explanations of development itself (Astington & Baird, 2005). Theoretically ToM is split into two main categories, theory theory (TT) and simulation theory (ST) (Marraffa, 2011). ST theorists postulate that individuals are able to predict and explain others behaviour by imagining themself in somebody else’s position. These mental simulations of emotions and expected behaviour are projected onto the target individual through the activation of mirror neurons (Goldman, 2006) (Ginsburg, 2007) (Oberman & Ramachandran, 2007). ST theorists generally consider this ability to be innate, as evidenced in a child’s ability to engage in pretend play on the onset of language acquisition, at around the age of