Mind-Mindedness and Theory of Mind: Mediating Roles of Language and Perspectival Symbolic Play


  • This research was supported by Grants R000239456 and RES-000-23-1073 from the Economic and Social Research Council. We thank Lorna Elliott, Alexandra Hearn, Beth Liddle, Kathryn Parkinson, and Julia Candy for their valuable contributions to data collection and coding, and the families for their generous participation. Elizabeth Meins, Charles Fernyhough, and Bronia Arnott, Department of Psychology and Wolfson Research Institute, Durham University. Susan R. Leekam, School of Psychology, Cardiff University. Marc de Rosnay, School of Psychology, University of Sydney.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Elizabeth Meins, Department of Psychology, Durham University, Science Laboratories, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, United Kingdom. Electronic mail may be sent to elizabeth.meins@durham.ac.uk.


Relations among indices of maternal mind-mindedness (appropriate and nonattuned mind-related comments) and children's: (a) internal state vocabulary and perspectival symbolic play at 26 months (= 206), and (b) theory of mind (ToM) at 51 months (= 161) were investigated. Appropriate comments were positively associated with ToM, but were unrelated to internal state language and perspectival symbolic play. Nonattuned comments were negatively correlated with internal state language and perspectival symbolic play, but were unrelated to ToM. Path analyses indicated that the best fit model assumed: (a) indirect links between nonattuned comments and ToM via children's perspectival symbolic play, (b) a direct link between appropriate comments and ToM, and (c) an indirect link between appropriate comments and ToM via children's concurrent receptive verbal ability.