Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Metacognitive Ability from a Theory-of-Mind Perspective: A Cross-Cultural Study of Students with and without Hearing Loss

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Metacognitive Ability from a Theory-of-Mind Perspective: A Cross-Cultural Study of Students with and without Hearing Loss

Article excerpt

Theory of Mind (see, e.g., Bartsch & Estes, 1996) is a concept that can help educators understand how students think about their state of mind and that of others involved in various life situations. To examine the impact of culture and the impact of hearing loss on metacognition as explained by Theory of Mind, two samples of students with and without hearing losses who were from two different cultures were compared on their ability to choose pictures representing their perspectives on specific life situations. The two groups did not differ in their metacognitive interpretations of the experiences when they were from the same culture, although students from different cultures did differ, indicating that culture may have a greater impact on metacognition as explained by Theory of Mind than hearing loss. Data collected in the present study affirmed previous research showing that students with hearing losses could make metacognitive decisions about life situations just as ably as their hearing peers from the same culture.

Many developmental psychologists invoke Theory ofMind when attempting to explain children's ability to understand their own mental state and that of others. Theory of Mind holds that humans have the cognitive ability to understand others as intentional agents, that is, to interpret the thoughts of others as having intentions, or being based on intentional states such as beliefs and desires, and to describe everyday human interactions from the perspective of these states (Bartsch & Estes, 1996; Flavell, 1999; Jenkins & Astington, 1996; Lillard, 1998a; Wellman & Gelman, 1992; see also Premack & Woodruff, 1978, who discuss the possibility of Theory of Mind in chimpanzees). People's activities are considered in Theory of Mind to be the product of both cognitive and noncognitive mental states. Theory of Mind is often thought of as an everyday folk psychology, by which ordinary individuals, as opposed to trained psychologists, explain their own actions and the actions of others. Individuals are considered psychological entities and are perceived in terms of mental states that are embedded in overt human actions and interactions (Wellman, 1998). Thus, Theory of Mind explains and interprets daily life activities. It focuses on how to interpret, predict, and understand behaviors, intentions, false beliefs, and knowledge, as a way of directing one's own actions and making decisions. Theory of Mind is concerned with how people understand and are aware of consciousness and mental acts (Gauvain, 1998).

The word theory has been used in association with the word mind because, although mental states are unobservable and thus theoretical, individuals use their own theories to predict, explain, and understand human behaviors, traits, and psychological and emotional states. Therefore, the ways in which people understand and make sense of others' behaviors may be viewed as theoretical constructs that include knowledge about motivations, interpersonal relations, perception, desires, and beliefs (Lillard, 1998a). Children acquire and apply the concept of belief to themselves and to others at approximately the same point in their development (Bartsch & Estes, 1996). Although the primary goal of many studies of Theory of Mind has been to establish normative age trends in the understanding and acquisition of mental states, concepts, and tasks, these studies actually have shown individual differences in the rate of this process. Data indicate that variables such as language ability and family size affect mental states, concepts, and the performance of tasks (Dunn, Brown, Slomkowski, Tesla, & Youngblade, 1991; Jenkins & Astington, 1996).

Several perspectives on Theory of Mind have been introduced to explain the development of children's knowledge about the mind by which they "read" others and acquire folk psychology. The two primary categories of Theory of Mind are Theory Theory and Simulation Theory. …

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