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Connections Between Theory of Mind and Sociomoral Development: New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, Number 103

Connections Between Theory of Mind and Sociomoral Development: New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, Number 103

Jodie A. Baird (Editor), Bryan W. Sokol (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-787-97440-4

Apr 2004, Jossey-Bass

96 pages

Select type: Paperback

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The heightened attention to research on theory of mind is due in large part to the shared intuition that this core aspect of development must have important consequences for, and connections with, children's evolving social competence. This seems particularly true for the moral domain, where a psychological, or inward, focus is often taken to be a constitutive feature of what distinguishes moral actions from other kinds of behavior. Unfortunately, the theory-of-mind enterprise has largely failed to capitalize on this fundamental connection between mental life and morality, and, as a result, it has been effectively cut off from the study of sociomoral development.

Contributors to this volume illustrate different, though complementary, attempts to bridge the gap that exists between these research traditions. Two central questions are addressed. First, what is the impact of children's conceptions of the mind on their moral judgments? Second, does children's mental state understanding influence the moral quality of their own behavior? In the concluding chapters, prominent scholars from both the theory-of-mind literature and the moral development domain comment on the efforts being made to link these research traditions and offer suggestions for future inquiry.

This is the 103rd volume of the Jossey-Bass quarterly report series New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development.

EDITORS’ NOTES (Jodie A. Baird, Bryan W. Sokol).

1. “Is” and “Ought”: Moral Judgments About the World as Understood (Cecilia Wainryb)
The author considers a framework for understanding how beliefs about the way the world is bear on moral decisions. This interplay of moral concepts and factual beliefs figures prominently in the explanation of moral diversity and in the explanation of children’s understanding and tolerance of moral diversity.

2. From Mechanical to Autonomous Agency: The Relationship Between Children’s Moral Judgments and Their Developing Theories of Mind (Bryan W. Sokol, Michael J. Chandler, Christopher Jones)
If the current gap between theories-of-mind research and the field of sociomoral development is to be successfully bridged, then greater attention must be given over to addressing how both “professional” and “folk” psychologists conceptualize human agency.

3. The Role of Mental State Understanding in the Development of Moral Cognition and Moral Action (Jodie A. Baird, Janet Wilde Astington)
The authors address developmental changes in children’s motives-based moral reasoning. Drawing on research with typically developing and behavior-disordered children, they report relations among moral cognition, mental state understanding, and real-world social behavior.

4. Altruism, Prudence, and Theory of Mind in Preschoolers (Chris Moore, Shannon Macgillivray)
The authors argue that theory of mind is not sufficient to make children act prosocially. Individual differences in the tendency to value the concerns of others likely play an important role. The distinction between the cognitive and motivational aspects of behavioral control is illustrated in a longitudinal study.

5. Bridging the Gap Between Theory of Mind and Moral Reasoning (Janet Wilde Astington)
The gap between theory of mind and moral reasoning research is more apparent than real due to the different emphases in the two fields. However, a more fundamental gap, which is the one between reasoning abilities and behavior, exists in both fields, and this requires investigation.

6. Mind and Morality (Peter H. Kahn Jr.)
This chapter examines why the fields of theory of mind and moral development have remained largely divided over the years and how they can now enrich one another.