Theory of Mind: a Hidden Factor
in Reading Comprehension?
Rebecca A. Dore
Steven J. Amendum
Roberta Michnick Golinkoff
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract Theory of mind is the understanding that other people have mental states that drive
their actions and that those mental states can be different from one’sown.Withoutunder-
standing theory of mind and being able to take others’ perspectives, it could be difficult for
children to read and understand narrative texts. This paper posits that children’sunderstanding
of others’ minds may be a potential missing piece in current accounts of reading comprehen-
sion. Indeed, the typical progression of children’s theory of mind abilities across childhood is
closely aligned with the development of narrative processing skills. Furthermore, emerging
evidence shows that both narrative processing and theory of mind are predictive of children’s
reading comprehension, both concurrently and longitudinally. We present a possible explana-
tion for why such a link exists and propose a causal framework of this relation in which
increased ToM leads to increased understanding of and inferencing about characters’ mental
states. Understanding characters’ mental states then leads to better reading comprehension.
The framework makes novel, testable predictions and provides directions for future research.
Keywords Reading comprehension
Theory of mind
He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he
would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.
– The final lines of To Kill a Mockingbird,byHarperLee
When we read these lines, we are interpreting marks on a page and imbuing them with
meaning. Beyond basic decoding and semantic processing, understanding a text requires that we
Educ Psychol Rev
* Rebecca A. Dore
University of Delaware, 113 Willard Hall, Newark, DE 19716, USA
Temple University, Philadelphia, USA