Why We Think We Can't Dance: Theory of Mind and Children's Desire to Perform

Lan Nguyen Chaplin*, Michael I. Norton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Theory of mind (ToM) allows children to achieve success in the social world by understanding others' minds. A study with 3- to 12-year-olds, however, demonstrates that gains in ToM are linked to decreases in children's desire to engage in performative behaviors associated with health and well-being, such as singing and dancing. One hundred and fifty-nine middle-class children from diverse backgrounds in a Northeastern U.S. metropolitan area completed the study in 2011. The development of ToM is associated with decreases in self-esteem, which in turn predicts decreases in children's willingness to perform. This shift away from performance begins at age 4 (when ToM begins to develop), years before children enter puberty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-658
Number of pages8
JournalChild development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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