Theory-of-Mind Continuum Model: Why Mind Matters in Philosophy, Psychology and Education

By Yoon-Suk Hwang, David Evans and Jim Mackenzie.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Theory-of-Mind has been defined as the ability to explain and predict human behaviour by imputing mental states, such as attention, intention, desire, emotion, perception and belief, to the self and others (Astington & Barriault, 2001). Theory-of-Mind study began with Piaget and continued through a tradition of meta-cognitive research projects (Flavell, 2004). A study by Baron-Cohen, Leslie and Frith (1985) of Theory-of-Mind abilities in atypically developing children reported major difficulties experienced by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in imputing mental states to others. Since then, a wide range of follow-up research has been conducted to confirm these results. Traditional Theory-of-Mind research on ASD has been based on an either-or assumption that Theory-of-Mind is something one either possesses or does not. However, this approach fails to take account of how the ASD population themselves experience Theory-of-Mind. This paper suggests an alternative approach, Theory-of-Mind continuum model, to understand the Theory-of-Mind experience of people with ASD. The Theory-of-Mind continuum model will be developed through a comparison of subjective and objective aspects of mind, and phenomenal and psychological concepts of mind. This paper will demonstrate the importance of balancing qualitative and quantitative research methods in investigating the minds of people with ASD. It will enrich our theoretical understanding of Theory-of-Mind, as well as contain methodological implications for further studies in Theory-of-Mind.

Keywords: Theory-of-Mind, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Phenomenal Mind, Psychological Mind, Interdisciplinary Approach to Mind, Ontology, Epistemology, Developmental Psychology, Special Education

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.249-258. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 550.400KB).

Yoon-Suk Hwang

Ph.D. candidate, Centre for Early Interventions, Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Yoon-Suk Hwang worked for three years as a special education teacher of a support class in a public primary school in the Republic of Korea. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney. Her Ph.D. concerns Theory-of-Mind in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as experienced from within by the ASD population and observed from without by their teachers. Her areas of interest are philosophy of educational research, self-determination and inclusive education for students with and without disabilities.

Dr. David Evans

Director Centre for Early Interventions, Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia

David Evans is currently Associate Professor of Special Education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. Over the past twenty years he has taught in regular and support classes across primary and secondary schools in New South Wales, Western Australian, the Northern Territory and South Australia. He has also had university appointments at Edith Cowan University (Western Australia) and the University of Western Sydney. Current research programs include education of students with autism, literacy and numeracy difficulties, educating students with chronic illness and brain injuries, and whole school approaches to managing diverse learning and behavioural needs. Address: Associate Professor David Evans, Faculty of Education and Social Work A35, the University of Sydney, NSW, 2040, Australia.

Dr. Jim Mackenzie

Senior lecturer, Philosophy in Education, Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia

Jim Mackenzie is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. His interests include the logic of dialogue, the history of educational ideas, curriculum structure, and crap detection.

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