9. Development of Social Cognition

  1. David Skuse2,3,
  2. Helen Bruce4,5,
  3. Linda Dowdney2 and
  4. David Mrazek6
  1. Virginia Slaughter

Published Online: 31 MAY 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9781119993971.ch9

Child Psychology and Psychiatry: Frameworks for Practice, Second Edition

Child Psychology and Psychiatry: Frameworks for Practice, Second Edition

How to Cite

Slaughter, V. (2011) Development of Social Cognition, in Child Psychology and Psychiatry: Frameworks for Practice, Second Edition (eds D. Skuse, H. Bruce, L. Dowdney and D. Mrazek), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781119993971.ch9

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Institute of Child Health, University College London, 30 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1EH, UK

  2. 3

    Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London, UK

  3. 4

    East London NHS Foundation Trust, UK

  4. 5

    London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, UK

  5. 6

    Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA

Author Information

  1. Early Cognitive Development Centre, University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 31 MAY 2011
  2. Published Print: 17 JUN 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470973820

Online ISBN: 9781119993971



  • theory of mind;
  • mentalising;
  • mindreading;
  • infants;
  • preschoolers;
  • social competence;
  • individual differences;
  • mentalistic conversation


Theory of mind, or mentalising, refers to our uniquely human capacity to infer what is in other people's minds in order to make sense of what they do and say. Recent research suggests that this skill can be seen as early as the second year of life, in infants' spontaneous helping and communicative behaviours. More sophisticated mentalising skills emerge in the preschool period; these are closely linked both to language development and to children's social competence. Research with typically developing children as well as those with social-communicative disorders suggests that exposure to conversation about feelings, desires and thoughts is likely to promote theory of mind development.