Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 597–625 | Cite as

How Theory of Mind and Executive Function Co-develop



Theory of mind (ToM) and executive function (EF) have traditionally been measured starting in preschool and share a similar developmental progression into childhood. Although there is some research examining early ToM and EF in the first 3 years, further empirical evidence and a theoretical framework for a ToM-EF relationship from infancy to preschool are necessary. In this paper we review the ToM-EF relationship in preschoolers and provide evidence for early development in ToM, EF, and the ToM-EF relationship. We propose that models of cognitive control (i.e., Hierarchical Competing Systems Model: Marcovitch & Zelazo (Journal of Cognition and Development 7:477–501, 2006), (Developmental Science 12:1–25, 2009)); and Levels of Consciousness Model: Zelazo (Trends in Cognitive Science 8:12–17, 2004) account for the ToM-EF relationship across childhood through domain-general developments in the ability to form and reflect on relevant representations that can guide behavior in both ToM and EF situations. The combination of these models also presents unique, domain-general considerations for interpreting early ToM from infancy to preschool.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MississippiOxfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA

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