Theory of Mind and Executive Function

Decent Essays
Theory of Mind and the Executive Function Theory of mind (ToM) is “the specific ability to attribute mental states to oneself and to others” (Pellicano, 2007, p. 974). Attributing mental states essentially allows one to read another’s body language and therefore predicts their behavior. This is important in the socialization of a child, something that an autistic child struggles with. Baron-Cohen et al. (2000) believe the term ToM is synonymous with social intelligence. The executive function (EF) is “a set of functions thought to be necessary for flexible, future-oriented behavior, especially in novel circumstances” (Pellicano, 2007, p. 974). The executive function is involved in many aspects of development, including working memory, the ability to plan effectively, and flexibility in focusing one’s attention to different people and objects. In a young child’s development, EF and ToM play a significant role. There are contradicting theories about which aspect affects the other, but it appears that the general belief is that together, they have an affect and that the two functions feed off of each (Pellicano, 2007). Pellicano (2007) found that in autistic children, when the EF is impaired, ToM is not intact. In other words, autistic children cannot read other’s body language if they have an impairment in their EF. Additionally, because of this impairment, they show an inability to be flexible, use their working memory, or plan for the future (Pellicano, 2007). One of the
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