The purpose of this paper is to closely examine the effects of children with congenital profound visual impairment (CPVI) and a possible correlation to the delay in the development of theory of mind (ToM). Specifically, this paper will compare a study that investigated how visual cues affect the development of ToM to a similarly themed episode from the popular television show Xena: Warrior Princess. On the surface these two groups may appear to be an odd comparison, for children with CPVI and Xena seem like they have nothing in common. However, there is one episode in particular entitled “Blind Faith,” in which these two worlds collide in a unique and surprising way proving and interesting parallel and additional insight into how blindness may affect the development of the theory of mind.
In the article entitled, “An investigation of first-order false belief understanding of children with congenital profound visual impairment,” a detailed look at the development of ToM was performed. Theory of mind (ToM) is defined “as the ability to impute mental states to others and to interpret and predict behavior in terms of those mental states” (Green 1). In order to examine ToM, the study performed a series of false belief tests. False belief can also be explained as misunderstanding which connected to false reasoning. In the case of the children in this study, the false belief would be if they can correctly identify how another person would respond to a specific task, if that person had limited information that the children were previously made privy too. These tests are important because, as they article explains; the testing false belief is the most direct way to access if a person has a fully developed theory of mind (Dennett cited in Green 2). What makes the study interesting is that an extra layer was added, examining if the loss of visual cues, such as in the case of the children with CPVI, and how that effects the development of ToM.
According to Meltzoff and Gopnik, “visual imitation provides the starting-point for theory of mind development” (qtd. in Green 2). When children are young, before they talk or learn to communicate they watch. As early as a few weeks old, children respond to and take visual cues on how to react from the adults around them. Without these visual cues young children are forced to use their other senses to figure out how to appropriately relate with the world. The hypothesis of the study agrees with this idea stating that “children with CPVI would have problems in theory of mind development” and “would show difficulty with theory of mind tasks that would not be shown in an age-and ability-matched group of sited children” (Green 5).
Children are usually able to understand first-order false beliefs between 4-5 years of age (Happe cited in Green 2), but Children with CPVI do not have the same resources as their sighted peers so they are at a disadvantage when it comes to forming their ToM. Without the visual...