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Exploring Theory of Mind

Posted by:  Suzanne Bonifert, Head of Speech-Language Pathology – UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders

Next month’s Bruton Conference at the Callier Center will focus on theory of mind (ToM), a complex concept that has grown increasingly relevant as researchers learn more about the neurological and environmental factors that contribute to ToM.

Theory of Mind is an individual’s ability to develop ideas about how other people may be thinking or feeling. It also allows people to theorize about how another person may react or what they may do next.

Dr. Carol Westby, an internationally known expert on language-literacy relationships and issues in assessment and intervention, will speak on ToM. As part of her presentation, she will discuss developmental stages of this skill, from precursors in infancy all the way through to higher level thinking in adolescents. For example, at specific points of childhood,  most children will realize that people can have different feelings about the same object. They will then develop an ability to recognize and judge a false belief. Eventually, they will understand words such as ‘know’ and ‘guess,’ which require comprehension of inferential thinking.

People diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or schizophrenia often have difficulty developing ToM. The good news is that, as our understanding of ToM has increased, so has our ability to help these children enhance their interaction with the world. The Bruton Conference will offer speech-language pathologists, mental health professionals and educators a chance to hear about the latest findings and share ideas about how to help their patients and students.

The all-day public conference is scheduled for Dec. 14 at the Callier Center’s Dallas location. For more information about the conference or how to register, visit the Callier website.


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