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Trends Cogn Sci. 1999 Sep;3(9):337-344.

Development of theory of mind and executive control.

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Department of Psychology, University of Salzburg, Hellbrunnerstrasse 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria.


Several recent studies have demonstrated a developmental link, in the age range of 3-5 years, between the acquisition of a 'theory of mind' and self control. In this review, we consider the existence of such a link in assessing five competing theoretical hypotheses that might help us to understand the nature of this developmental advance: (1) executive control depends on theory of mind; (2) theory of mind development depends on executive control; (3) the relevant theory of mind tasks require executive control; (4) both kinds of task require the same kind of embedded conditional reasoning; (5) theory of mind and executive control involve the same brain region. We briefly describe these theoretical accounts and evaluate them in the light of existing empirical evidence. At present, only account (3) can be ruled out with some confidence.


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