Theory Of Mind

The first time a toddler attempts to lie is a huge psychological landmark.

While it might seem counter intuitive to be proud of a kid covered in crumbs while they’re promising they didn’t raid the cookie jar, it’s actually one of the first indicators that they have developed theory of mind.

This is the point at which a child realises that their thoughts, emotions, beliefs, intentions and perspectives are seperate from those of other people.

Almost unimaginably, this is not our default mode.

It doesn’t occur to a young child to lie, because their natural state is to assume that you already know what they know.

When a young child gets worked up over something seemingly trivial, it’s often because they don’t yet understand that the wants and needs of others can conflict with their own.

When there is a dissonance between what they are experiencing and what others are doing, they can’t process it. The result, as all parents will know, is an intense experience of pain and grief.

We begin our lives assuming that humankind shares a singular, unified consciousness and every experience we have from then on slowly proves us otherwise.

So slowly in fact, that even some adults default back to this mode when the views of others don’t align with their own.

When their cognitive expectations aren’t met, when the perspectives of others stray too far from their own beliefs and desires, it becomes too much to process. The resistance they feel gives way to tantrum in the same way a toddler spits out its dummy when nobody’s paying it enough attention.

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