J.W. Astington, L.A. Dack, in Encyclopedia of Infant and Early Childhood Development, 2008
Theory-of-mind research investigates children’s understanding of people as mental beings, who have beliefs, desires, emotions, and intentions, and whose actions and interactions can be interpreted and explained by taking account of these mental states. The article begins with a description of theory of mind by outlining key foundational components, such as false belief and mental representation. It continues with a comprehensive description of theory-of-mind development from infancy through to the school-age years. It then outlines individual differences in typical development, diverse atypical developments, and cultural differences in theory of mind. Finally, various theoretical explanations of theory-of-mind development are briefly discussed.