Do infants have a theory of mind?


  • Hannes Rakoczy

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Psychology & Courant Research Centre ‘Evolution of Social Behaviour’ University of Göttingen, Germany
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Correspondence should be addressed to Hannes Rakoczy, Institute of Psychology, University of Göttingen, Waldweg 26, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany (e-mail:


The central question debated in current research on infant social cognition is ‘do infants have a theory of mind?’ It is argued here that this question is understood and treated in radically different ways by different participants of the debate arguing either for (e.g., Onishi & Baillargeon, 2005) or against early competence in theory of mind (e.g., Perner & Ruffman, 2005). As a consequence, there is considerable talking past each other, both sides make claims that appear incompatible but are actually answers to different questions and framed at different levels of description. Some conceptual distinctions from the philosophy of mind are therefore introduced to describe the different interpretations of the question and the misunderstandings based thereupon, with the aim of providing some conceptual clarification as groundwork for future debates.