Going out of Your Mind--Broadening the Social in Social Reasoning

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There has been increased interest in deontic reasoning among researchers studying theory of mind and a greater recognition recently that these two areas of research contain potential overlaps. Wellman and Miller’s article therefore is a wel-come and bold attempt to describe the interrelationships between theory of mind and deontic reasoning. We are in agreement with much of what they propose, and in this commentary, we point out some of the strengths of their conceptualization, as well as some areas where their proposal would benefit from further clarification and elaboration. To foreshadow our argument, we agree with Wellman and Miller’s as-sumption that deontic reasoning and theory of mind overlap, but we question wheth-er they are as interconnected as Wellman and Miller propose. Thus, we elaborate on when and how these two constructs may be related (and when they are not). We employ the perspective of social domain theory [Nucci, 2001; Smetana, 1995, 2006; Turiel, 1983, 2002, 2006] to examine some important limitations to the reach of deontic reasoning and suggest that distinctions among the moral, conventional, and per-sonal domains of social reasoning may be important for understanding the relation-ship between theory of mind and children’s reasoning about right and wrong.

Human Development, 51
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Clare Conry-Murray
Associate Professor of Psychology

My research interests include social development, including moral development, gender development and culture.