Cliquies To The Classroom Essay

1582 words - 7 pages

Empathy or the capacity to recognize emotions displayed by other individuals has played and continues to play a vital role in human social interaction. Our ability to recognize the emotional states of others and the ensuing desire to assist those in need were pivotal in human survival and evolution and are still important today in our social and work lives. The development of empathy while not unique to human beings is part of what enables our success; emotionally isolated individuals are less likely to succeed, survive, and reproduce. Meanwhile individuals who are are well attuned to the feelings and desires of others, and those who act on that intuition, are positioned for success. The ...view middle of the document...

Whether by an innate understanding of others or by a practiced ability to assume the perspective of another it is hard to deny that the Theory of Mind is only a hypothesis. We have all experienced situations in which feel deeply and personally the emotions of others. When watching a deeply embarrassing scene unfold in person or in movies we often physically experience the discomfort and mental anguish of others, and when we are feeling down friends and family often know that we need help without us ever having to ask. The potential benefits of the theory of mind are readily apparent, however the importance of this concept cannot be over stated, researchers posit that we develop a Theory of Mind during infancy, often before the age of three (Wellman, 1990), well before many other complex cognitive abilities. However the Theory of Mind remains a theory simply because it is not explicitly observable. While we are able to analyze the content of our own minds the ability to directly access the mind of others is simply not possible. Modern technology such as fMRI and other brain scans allows researchers to see the chemical process at work inside of the human brain, but is it possible to directly prove the existence of the Theory of Mind?

Individual impairment to one's Theory of Mind, often called Mind-Blindness, is a cognitive disorder where an individual has difficulty attributing mental states to oneself or others. Mind-Blindness can occur where an individual either never developed or lost a complete understanding of the Theory of Mind. Examples of impairment to an individuals understanding of the Theory of Mind such as autism, and Asperger's syndrome are examples where a complete understanding of the Theory of Mind never developed.

In a study at the University of Cambridge researchers demonstrated that individuals diagnosed with autism and Asperger's showed significant difficulty inferring the emotional state of others from facial cues, most significantly their eyes. Autism and Asperger's are developmental disorders most heavily characterized by impaired social interaction and restricted verbal and nonverbal communication. Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues present evidence that these distinctive characteristics could in part be explained by a child’s impairment in the development of a Theory of Mind. In their study researchers discuss a broad spectrum of understanding of a Theory of Mind. Individuals do not simply transition from having no intuition into the thoughts and feelings of others one day into a near psychic ability to empathize and understand the minds of others the next. They discuss a spectrum of tests which are used to measure the progression of understanding of the Theory of Mind in children. First and second order tests involve a subject reasoning what another might think about themselves and what another might think about the test subject. In normal cases children as young as six years old should be able to pass these...

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