Development of the Child’s Sense of Self, Including Theory of Mind

  • 9-12 Months- Relationship between actions and reactions and what effect they have.
  • 15-18 Months- Begins to recognise that it is physically different to others, recognise themselves.
  • 2-6 Years- Realise that they are in full control of their physically and cognitive achievements. No egocentrism at this point.
  • 6-9 Years- Regard themselves how others think of them and the concept of self esteem is developed.
  • 10-13 Years- Able to use their own opinions for evaluation on issues and use their conscience to decide if their behaviour and others’ behaviour is acceptable in society.
  • 13-17 Years- Develops principles and values. Recognise the broader impact to society.


  • When placing a dot on a child’s nose and putting them in front of a mirror, those children who have a developed sense of self, the majority of whom are 21-24 months, will touch their nose from what they see in the mirror.
  • More likely to recognise themselves from moving film than photographs-> need for movement cues. Self awareness from photo begins at 15 months (complete in 75% by 24 months).
  • Film of themselves doing mirror test, only 4 year olds reached for the dot-> could be due to lack of eye contact.

Theory Of Mind

  • The idea that children are aware that their own beliefs differ to others’.
  • False belief tasks indicate this. Wimmer & Perner– Indicating which cupboard, green or blue, a child would look in to find the sweets he had originally put in the blue cupboard but after someone had moved them to the green.

> 2-3 Year olds are more likely to say the box where the sweets actually ARE because they don’t understand that the child didn’t see and so doesn’t know they have moved. Most 4 year olds tend to get this right.


  • Significant relationship between false belief task performance and language ability. Suggests that ToM is part of the developing cognitive functioning.
  • Explains why girls are better at language, they are better at false belief tasks.
  • Baron- Cohen– Autistic children had same measure intelligence as Down’s syndrome children but 85% of the down’s guessed it right and only 20% of ASD children got it right so it must be to do with social cognition.
  • Culture– Different false belief tasks were used in cross cultural research so not very reliable.

>it was retested with the same task-> all children guessed correctly by the age of 5 in all cultures tested.

  • Siblings- Encourages interaction so ToM is developed faster.
  • Everyday objects– Smarties tube used, ToM developed at the age of 4.
  • QUESTIONNED VALIDITY– There may not be ToM and it might be another intellectual skill at work like language, therefore good results on the false belief task is due to that instead.
  • May develop earlier, 15 month olds show surprise when the object is not in the place they were expecting.