The Voices Within

On the voices in our heads

Where mind-mindedness comes from

Mind-mindedness refers to parents' tendency to treat their children as individuals with minds of their own. In a new study, we set out to investigate whether individual differences in maternal mind-mindedness relate to mothers' attitudes to their babies before they are born. Read More

What a fascinating study. I

What a fascinating study. I am curious, though, as to whether a mother's mind-mindedness could be low for one child (perhaps because she hadn't planned to conceive), yet remarkably high with a subsequent child? And would this, do you think, affect her bond differently between children?

Differences across siblings

That's a really interesting question. The prediction that mind-mindedness will vary across siblings definitely follows from what I've written. We suspect also, though, that using your 'theory of mind' in a mind-minded way will be a relatively stable social-cognitive trait (in the study I described here, we also found longitudinal stability in mind-mindedness in the first year). I suspect that experience with different kids might lead parents to be differently mind-minded (just as two siblings can be differently attached to the same parent) in some cases, and that your overall mind-mindedness makeup will be affected by a mix of factors. We have relevant data on this but we haven't yet completed the analysis. I'll let you know!

Thanks again for your very interesting comment.

Differences across cultures

Very interesting research!!
I have been looking at this in Korea where mothers and babies have a more distant relationship in my eyes(the majority of what I have seen anyway). Most mothers I see interact less 'mind-mindedly' and many mothers have expressed to me that they do not consider their child 'intelligent' or that baby is 'thinking much', as a consequence there is little communicative interaction aside from feeding/bathing/soothingly patting baby's back(quite hard 'slapping' really), and very little eye-contact - which I found so heart-wrenching to observe: there is baby gazing up at mother and mum just does not enter into 'the conversation', does not look back or smile.
Odd general beliefs are widespread even among university educated people such as 'baby can't hear or see anything for weeks after birth' maybe that is a reason.
On the other hand babies in Korea are often held/cradled all day long in someone's arms or strapped across a back; at night they mostly sleep on mummy's chest. So physical contact is high, but face-time is low. In my personal thinking I wonder if their is a link between Korean's lack of empathy/diplomatic thinking I have personally experienced and this lower focus on 'mind-mindedness'. This could also be raleted to foreign language acquisition, I believe as looking other people direclty in the face (for long)is not accepted culturally. Well, research is ongoing!

Thanks for this very

Thanks for this very interesting comment. I think there needs to be more cross-cultural research; the work we have done has focused on UK samples and it's likely that there will be important cross-cultural differences if research like this was carried out in other countries.

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Charles Fernyhough is a Professor of Psychology at Durham University and author of Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts.

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