Theory of Mind and the Self



    Corresponding author
    1. Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London, United Kingdom
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Address for correspondence: Dr. Francesca Happé, Institute of Psychiatry, Box P080, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, UK. Voice: +44 (0)20 7848 0928; fax: +44 (0)20 7848 0866.


Abstract: This paper will discuss one aspect of the self, the ability to reflect on one's own inner states, in relation to recent work on the cognitive and neural basis of “theory of mind.” Are the same representational resources required for “reading” one's own and other minds? Relevant literature from the study of normal development of theory of mind will be reviewed, along with research on a developmental disorder characterized by an apparent inability to think about thoughts: autism. Functional neuroimaging studies of theory of mind will be discussed as will studies that may tap the neural basis of self-reflection. From these different strands of evidence the speculative suggestion will be made that reflecting on one's own thoughts is not a privileged process, but rather relies on—and may have evolved from—the same cognitive and neural functions used for attributing thoughts to others.