Theory of mind (ToM) refers to the ability to make inferences about mental states. Thus far, little research has examined ToM development in middle childhood. Importantly, recent studies have distinguished between making inferences about beliefs (cognitive ToM) and emotions (affective ToM). ToM has also been associated with executive functioning, though research on the differential relations between cognitive ToM and affective ToM and specific components of executive functioning is scarce. The current study examined advanced cognitive and affective ToM in 8- to 11-year-olds (N = 168). Working memory, inhibition, and set-shifting abilities were also assessed. Results showed that, in this age group, cognitive ToM increased significantly with age, and combined cognitive and affective ToM trendwise increased with age. All three domains of executive functioning (EF) showed age-related improvement. Inhibitory control and verbal IQ significantly predicted cognitive ToM, whereas verbal IQ predicted affective ToM. These results suggest that cognitive and affective components of ToM are distinguishable and may be differentially related to EF.
Cassetta, Briana D.; Pexman, Penny M.; and Goghari, Vina M.
"Cognitive and Affective Theory of Mind and Relations With Executive Functioning in Middle Childhood,"
Merrill-Palmer Quarterly: Vol. 64
, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/mpq/vol64/iss4/4