Can someone explain the Theory of Mind?

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N0tYetDeadFred
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07 Oct 2011, 7:32 am

I've seen a few references to it on the forums, but I'm a newb.

Thanks!



Mdyar
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07 Oct 2011, 7:54 am

N0tYetDeadFred wrote:
I've seen a few references to it on the forums, but I'm a newb.

Thanks!


[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDtjLSa50uk[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hLubgpY2_w&feature=related[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzAk9TB4SsU[/youtube]

comments :
Quote:
This is my son almost 11, acting out his obsession, magic. He does not quite understand how magic works, he believes his tricks are real, and he believes his audience are convinced they are to. In his mind, what he sees, and what he believes is what you see and what you believe.



b9
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07 Oct 2011, 7:56 am

it is just a theory, and i will not believe it until there is proof of mind.

to be serious, this is how i understand it.

if your thought processes are similar to most other people's thought processes, then you are likely to be able to predict what they are going to say next.
and when they say what they say next, it is expected, and it serves to confirm the predictions of the listener, who then becomes engaged, because the listener can use their own mind to augment and define what they are listening to.

i have limited "theory of mind" which means i have few similarities in my thought processes with those who i talk to, and i can not guess what they are going to say next, and when they say what they say next, i most often do not understand why they said it. this makes conversation with me very difficult.

"theory of mind" is a "theory" people have (based upon their own experience (which they have found to be similar to other people's experiences (in developmental sequence as well)) as to what other people are thinking.

i am almost blind to how other people think, and so i rarely know what is on their minds, or how they got to where they are in their stage of thought.

i am sure more articulate people can better describe it, but that is basically how i understand it.


edit: i watched the videos (i posted 2 minutes after you and was not aware that you already answered), and they are interesting.



Last edited by b9 on 07 Oct 2011, 8:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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07 Oct 2011, 7:57 am

You have a "theory of mind" when you have a "theory" about what what other person is thinking. When you have thoughts style "If I say that, who he will react?" or "Perhaps John is angry with me", you are having "theory of mind".

According to some theories, autistic people don't have ToM, or at least, don't have naturally ToM (with age, they begin to have thoughts like the above, but is a learned reaction, insteado if instictive).

Accordind to other theories, this is only an illusion created by the difficulty of autistics in understanding the language in the tests created to measure ToM.



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07 Oct 2011, 10:08 am

Controversy. Deconstructing Theory of Mind.

I have read Rachel Rothenberg, a neurodiversity advocate who has ASD (is this how she spells her name?) brilliantly IMHO deconstruct Theory of Mind on her website.

I agreed.

Does anyone know how I might locate this text?



hanyo
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07 Oct 2011, 10:18 am

I'm still not sure I understand this. Of course I realize that people think different things than me but that doesn't mean I know what they are thinking about.

I'm trying out this test I found.

http://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/daniel.nettl ... nettle.pdf



PaintingDiva
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07 Oct 2011, 10:30 am

I am a big fan of Michelle Winner, who works with people with ASD, this is her explanation of 'perspective taking' to help improve communications with NTs. The idea as best I understand it is ASD people do not realize other people have 'thoughts' about them and therefore do not communicate well with NTs.

Also, John Robinson, in his first book, Look Me in the Eye, brilliantly describes what small talk feels like to him, he does not know why people are even talking to him about things, like, 'Susie has a new boyfriend and he has a motorcycle'. He describes his thought process/response to that comment. He mostly thinks about the motorcycle if I remember correctly.

Michelle Winner firmly believes people can be taught how to do perspective taking and communicate better:

Quote:
The Four Steps of Perspective Taking

The below summarizes one of the critical treatment paradigms we explore when trying to understand the complexities of social participation.

To better understand how we take perspective in a group environment, Winner developed the “The Four Steps of Perspective Taking” to help all of us (adults and students), understand the process through which we share space effectively. Imagine you are in an elevator while you think of each of these four steps:

Step One: When you come into my space, I have a little thought about you and you have a little thought about me.

Step Two: I wonder “why are you near me?,” “what is your purpose for being near me?” “Is it because you are just sharing the space, do you intend to talk to me or do you intend to harm me?” I have to consider all these things in order to keep me safe around people as well as to predict what will happen next.

Step Three: Since we have thoughts about each other, I wonder what you are thinking about me.

Step Four: To keep you thinking about me the way I would like you to think about me, I monitor and possibly modify my behavior to keep you thinking about me the way I want you to think about me.

The “thoughts” we are having about each other are often tiny thoughts that are almost at the unconscious level. However, it is the always-present, very active thought processes of those around us, when we are neurotypical, that allow us to constantly regulate our behavior to make sure that most people have very “normal” thoughts about us most of the time.

These Four Steps of Perspective Taking are what is expected every student does across the school day while sitting in a classroom, on the playground or just hanging out. Social regulation is at the heart of social participation and we each participate socially just when we are in the presence of others, even when we are not talking to them!

Please also read the article by Michelle Garcia Winner, Pamela Crooke and Stephanie Madrigal;

The Social Thinking-Social Communication Profile™*



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PaintingDiva
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07 Oct 2011, 10:51 am

from her website:

Quote:
I’m Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, and I publish this blog, Journeys with Autism. I’m an inveterate writer, a compulsive editor, an eclectic artist, an amateur photographer, the wife of a wonderful man, and the mother of an amazing daughter.

I currently work as a copy editor for The Commons, an award-winning independent weekly based in southern Vermont. I am also a personal care assistant for a little boy with multiple disabilities. In the fall of 2011, I will begin work on a Master’s degree in History and Culture, with an emphasis on Disability Studies, at Union Institute and University

At the age of 50, I awoke to my place on the autism spectrum and discovered a world of gifts, struggles, and life-changing possibilities. My latest book, The Uncharted Path: My Journey with Late-Diagnosed Autism, was published in July of 2010.

I am presently at work on two additional books — an anthology of poetry and prose by autistics, aged 35 and over, called We’ve Been Here All Along, and a new autobiographical work entitled Blazing My Trail.

I welcome your questions and love being of support to autistic people, autism parents, and autism professionals. Feel free to contact me at rachel@journeyswithautism.com.


Journeys with Autism



hanyo
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07 Oct 2011, 10:52 am

"This means that individuals with a ToM impairment would have a hard time seeing things from any other perspective than their own."

I can understand that other people think differently than me but I generally can't figure out what they are thinking unless they tell me.

"Individuals who experience a theory of mind deficit have difficulty determining the intentions of others, lack understanding of how their behavior affects others, and have a difficult time with social reciprocity."

That part applies to me.

Some of those questions in that test I posted I found impossible to answer as their wasn't enough info in the story. Saying what they thought would be a guess that could be right or wrong.



hanyo
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07 Oct 2011, 11:25 am

Quote:
The Four Steps of Perspective Taking

The below summarizes one of the critical treatment paradigms we explore when trying to understand the complexities of social participation.

To better understand how we take perspective in a group environment, Winner developed the “The Four Steps of Perspective Taking” to help all of us (adults and students), understand the process through which we share space effectively. Imagine you are in an elevator while you think of each of these four steps:

Step One: When you come into my space, I have a little thought about you and you have a little thought about me.

Step Two: I wonder “why are you near me?,” “what is your purpose for being near me?” “Is it because you are just sharing the space, do you intend to talk to me or do you intend to harm me?” I have to consider all these things in order to keep me safe around people as well as to predict what will happen next.

Step Three: Since we have thoughts about each other, I wonder what you are thinking about me.

Step Four: To keep you thinking about me the way I would like you to think about me, I monitor and possibly modify my behavior to keep you thinking about me the way I want you to think about me.


I'm not so good at step 3 and 4.



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07 Oct 2011, 11:33 am

N0tYetDeadFred wrote:
I've seen a few references to it on the forums, but I'm a newb.

Thanks!

In simplest terms it's the idea that you know others have minds. Everyone has a mind, more or less. Not sure about the comatose and where they stand. The idea is, every conscious entity has a mind and our minds are all different though I do wonder if there is such a thing as "collective consciousness" which would be like a mind shared by everyone that anyone can access under the right circumstances. It's just what it says it is. A theory that minds exist and are real.



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07 Oct 2011, 11:43 am

Here's my explanation of ToM, but you should know before reading it that I tend to apply the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) principle to definitions of things like this, and that there are advantages and disadvantages that come with doing so.

One advantage is that it makes it easier to understand, but only if the simplistic definition is actually accurate, which brings in a disadvantage. Simple definitions can often be misread, resulting in others debating my simple definition, which requires further clarification. Finally, if the simplistic definition is based on inaccurate understanding of the term, it looks even more wrong, because it probably is.

This though, is a definition I arrived at after a few years of rewording based on increasingly more accurate understanding, at least within my own mind (which goes to the whole point of Tom).

Theory of Mind is the ability to imagine what other people might be thinking. It is not necessarily the ability to predict others thoughts and/or feelings accurately, however, the more accurate ones imagining is, the more useful it is.

Nobody's ToM ability is 100% accurate, because 100% accuracy is impossible. It is impossible because while you might accurate imagine someone else's thoughts, and they may validate what you think about what they think, there is always the possibility that people's ability to be dishonest with themselves could be at play.

For example, I might think my friend, Fred, doesn't like Republican platform ideals. He might agree and say he doesn't like them. But what if Fred is the kind of person that tends to agree with the majority of people around him, and simply can't or won't publicly admit that he has his own opinion about anything. Suppose he tends to "go with the flow," and most of his friends and family don't agree with Republican ideals, and that is the only reason he says, "Yeah, I don't like them either."

Suppose, if Fred were left alone to form his own opinion, he WOULD agree with Republican ideals, but he just can't or won't admit it?

It's ambiguous situations like this than can and do happen very often, that I say that accuracy of ToM has nothing to do with whether or not one possesses ToM.

What does matter is whether or not one actually DOES exercise imagination of what other people think and feel.

For me, lack of ToM was apparent in the fact that for many years, I would be shocked that anyone could not "see" what I "saw" as obvious "truth." I would state what I thought was an undeniable "truth," and be totally taken off guard when others would challenge me, because I had never even imagined that anyone could think anything other than what I thought.

Hope that helps.

EDIT: Hah! I didn't notice your username until after I posted. Choice of the name Fred is purely coincidental. 8)


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07 Oct 2011, 1:20 pm

Yes. I mean, you, Rachel Cohen R. Thank you for chiming in. I once read your blog which was about deconstructing ToM, I thought. Am I right or wrong? This was some time ago. What are your views today?

IMHO ToM is pretty much a load of you know what. First of all it bothers me that the Sally Ann experiment ("scientific" basis of ToM) is used to conclude ASD participants don't read the mind of another. From what I can tell, Sally Ann just tests visual processing patterns--it's actually a measure of which objects are tracked in a specific visual context and has little to do with human understanding of another's mind. My son understands minds in an intuitive way more than anything else--not through assessing who put what doll named Sally Ann where.

Rachel, what do you make of ToM now?



PaintingDiva
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07 Oct 2011, 3:21 pm

That was not Rachel C. Rottenberg, the author and blogger posting, that was me, Paintingdiva.

Posting on chat boards can get confusing to say the least.

That was me, wrongplanet 'member' posting her website to help you out, you said you were looking for her information.

It would be very cool if she posted here but not yet as far as I know.

:D



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07 Oct 2011, 4:59 pm

MrXxx wrote:
Here's my explanation of ToM, but you should know before reading it that I tend to apply the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) principle to definitions of things like this, and that there are advantages and disadvantages that come with doing so.

One advantage is that it makes it easier to understand, but only if the simplistic definition is actually accurate, which brings in a disadvantage. Simple definitions can often be misread, resulting in others debating my simple definition, which requires further clarification. Finally, if the simplistic definition is based on inaccurate understanding of the term, it looks even more wrong, because it probably is.

This though, is a definition I arrived at after a few years of rewording based on increasingly more accurate understanding, at least within my own mind (which goes to the whole point of Tom).

Theory of Mind is the ability to imagine what other people might be thinking. It is not necessarily the ability to predict others thoughts and/or feelings accurately, however, the more accurate ones imagining is, the more useful it is.

Nobody's ToM ability is 100% accurate, because 100% accuracy is impossible. It is impossible because while you might accurate imagine someone else's thoughts, and they may validate what you think about what they think, there is always the possibility that people's ability to be dishonest with themselves could be at play.

For example, I might think my friend, Fred, doesn't like Republican platform ideals. He might agree and say he doesn't like them. But what if Fred is the kind of person that tends to agree with the majority of people around him, and simply can't or won't publicly admit that he has his own opinion about anything. Suppose he tends to "go with the flow," and most of his friends and family don't agree with Republican ideals, and that is the only reason he says, "Yeah, I don't like them either."

Suppose, if Fred were left alone to form his own opinion, he WOULD agree with Republican ideals, but he just can't or won't admit it?

It's ambiguous situations like this than can and do happen very often, that I say that accuracy of ToM has nothing to do with whether or not one possesses ToM.

What does matter is whether or not one actually DOES exercise imagination of what other people think and feel.

For me, lack of ToM was apparent in the fact that for many years, I would be shocked that anyone could not "see" what I "saw" as obvious "truth." I would state what I thought was an undeniable "truth," and be totally taken off guard when others would challenge me, because I had never even imagined that anyone could think anything other than what I thought.

Hope that helps.

EDIT: Hah! I didn't notice your username until after I posted. Choice of the name Fred is purely coincidental. 8)


So, from your post, you basically seem to think similarly to me there are two aspects of ToM. The ability to imagine what other people are thinking, and the accuracy of that ability.

Autistics are supposedly less able to imagine what other people are thinking, but on the other hand, there are those who are able to imagine what other people are thinking but could be quite inaccurate about it.

Why might someone be inaccurate but yet have a fully intact ToM?

Perhaps because they think very differently to everyone else. If you think similarly to another person, you'll be far more likely to accurately predict how they'll react to and think about what you say and do since you imagining being that person is essentially imagining you being in their position. The golden rule is built on this principle: Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. If what you would have done unto yourself is very different from what others would want to have done on them, then even if you do have a fairly good ToM, you can still fail at being accurate because you're highly dissimilar to other people, which is effectively the same as not having a ToM.

So, this leads to the existence of two people who are functionally similar, but yet, fundamentally different.

-Those who have an impaired ability to imagine being another person:
-Those who have the ability to imagine but are highly inaccurate due to fundamental dissimilarities. Accuracy could also be affected by working memory and whether you've "learned" how other people think through socialization.

Now, supposedly, autism has the first characteristic. Every other not-autistic FREAK out there has the second characteristic, but yet is functionally similar to someone with autism in this regard.