Theory of Mind development in both autistic and typically-developing children

(A Critical Discussion)

Introduction

The development of Theory of the Mind (ToM) during the first five years of life is a fundamental process in typical childhood development. The term Theory of Mind describes the ability to understand people as mental beings and having mental states that do not necessarily coincide with ours (Astington and Edward, 2010).

Although research on ToM is profuse, there are still many areas where research has been unable to find satisfactory answers and many findings where the interpretation is not consensual. Such is the case of the development of ToM is children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children in ASD show evidence of having an impaired ToM, but a body of research is now challenging this mainstream view (e.g. Chevallier, Parish-Morris, Tonge, Miller and Schultz, 2014), either proposing alternative interpretations, questioning the methodology used in tasks designed to evaluate the existence of ToM, or expanding the theory to encompass additional features of ASD.

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Wanting Less

The event is called La Ciudad de Las Ideas (The City of Ideas, in English) and it takes place every year in Puebla, México. Here a few of the most brilliant minds of the planet get together to debate new ideas and paradigms.

One of the 2011 presentations was about the “paradox of choice“. In this, the psychologist Barry J. Schwartz introduced the concepts of maximisers and satisficers to distinguish to types of people. The so-called maximisers are never happy with the options that take and always look for more and better alternatives. These people earn more money and get to top positions in their careers. On the other hand, they are more restless and unhappy. On the other side, the satisficers do not look for the best option, but simply one that satisfies them. Their salaries and job positions are lower, but they are, in general, happier.

This is maybe just an old idea dressed with new clothes. It is, in any case, a brilliant idea that should be kept alive.

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(Note: this post was initially published in Portuguese in http://www.150palavras.blogspot.com)

Me and Myself

In 1984 Piaget developed the Three Mountain Task to test up to what age children have an egocentric view of the world. In this task children are shown a model with three mountains of different sizes and a doll seated at one of the sides. Next, children are asked to select among different drawings that drawing that represents what the doll sees. Piaget found out that children up to seven years of age select the drawing that represents their own point of view.

As adults we are able to imagine what other people see; we know that different positions generate different perspectives. However, everything seems to change when we need to imagine how others think and feel. In this case, we often act like Piaget’s children and imagine that others think and feel the same we do. If, on one side, this egocentrism avoids the paralysis of analysis, on the other side it drive us to take decisions that quickly convert, at the eyes of others, in bad intentions.

Three Mountain Task
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(Note: this post was initially published in Portuguese in http://www.150palavras.blogspot.com)

The Confirmation Bias

In psychology, the term “confirmation bias” identifies the tendency to give importance to information that confirms our point of view, minimising information that supports other points of view. We all like to be right and, possibly because of that, we all suffer from this bias. Moreover, in our day-to-day living, we often do not have time to explore all options, and, in the end, we chose to see only those that make our lives easier in the short run.

However, there are situations where this bias is served to us in a silver looking tray. In this case, the bias is not as much from the person who consumes it, as it is from the person serving it, that affected by ignorance or armed with bad intentions, presents it as the truth and nothing but the truth.

Here is an example: governments  in certain countries have recently decided to make labour laws more flexible and layoffs easier to execute. Although this is probably a correct argument, they’ve left out of this discussion other factors without which it makes no sense to talk about flexibility, namely the fact that salaries also need to be adjusted to the cost of living, so that people can still be prepared to honour their agreements in the case of unemployment.

Confirmation Bias
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(Note: this post was initially published in Portuguese in http://www.150palavras.blogspot.com)

Do I Tell You a Story?

In one of his books, Jorge Bucay – an Argentinian gestalt psychotherapist, psychodramatist and writer – tells the story of a man who buys a pair of shoes which are two sizes too small. Still in the shoe store, he tries them out and, with a lot of difficulty, walks off. Some hours later, already in its workplace, his face is red and tears are starting to role down his cheeks.

– What is happening? – one of his colleagues asks.

– It’s the shoes. They are two sizes too small and are killing my feet.

– And so, why do you wear them?

– Well… It’s true that with these shoes I suffer like hell, but can you imagine the relief I will feel what I get home and take them off? Oh! What a pleasure!

I’m not sure if is a biological mechanism, or a moral imposition, or a market rule that makes us progress as a species, but condemned us to only appreciate those things that come with a cost. I have however the sensation that having simple pleasures would take us the same way – slower, that’s a guarantee – but with a lot less suffering.

Pain in the foot
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(Note: this post was initially published in Portuguese in http://www.150palavras.blogspot.com)

A Leader’s #1 Focus (An Essay)

This essay discusses what should be the number one focus of a leader. It does so by looking at theory and research that identifies the dimensions for a successful leadership, to derive from this what should be a leader’s main focus points. It proposes that well-being and satisfaction of group members is part of a leadership style and one more element of the leader’s toolbox, but not a goal in itself.

This essay concludes by suggesting the number one focus of a leader must depend on the type of task, the context and the group members’ characteristics.

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Alfred Adler (An Essay)

This essay will give an account of the main aspects of the life, work and times of Alfred Adler, the founder of Individual Psychology. It will describe how his childhood has laid the foundation for his work. Additionally, it will try to demonstrate that Adler has a place in the history of psychology that goes beyond his association with Freud.

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