The purpose and neurobiology of theory of mind functions

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6 Scopus citations


Theory of Mind (ToM) refers to a cognitive process which allows an individual to "place him/herself" in the other person's "mind," so as to comprehend the latter's cognitive and emotional status, so as to predict his/her behavior and emotional response to a particular situation. ToM is necessary for everyday interaction among individuals and accounts for such human traits as empathy, compassion, and deceit. It is also particularly important in the relationship between a healer and his or her client, as well as in the God-human relationship. Recent research in the area of neurosciences has identified a specific brain "system" responsible for ToM, as well as described how these functions may be affected in certain neuropsychiatric conditions. In this article, we discuss the definition and neurobiological substrate of ToM. In addition, we discuss the cognitive steps important to achieve an "accurate" theory of mind, its relevance to "self-knowledge," and its limitations. We also review some of the data concerning abnormalities and "distortion" of ToM in neuropsychiatric disorders and aberrant human behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-365
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Religion and Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008


  • Empathy
  • Mirror neurons
  • Neurobiology
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Religious studies


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