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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: William Miles, MD (Rush University Medical Center)
Description: This is the second edition of a work first published in 1993. The editors attempt to explain the very important concept of the "theory of mind," or the ability for human beings to understand that they have a "self" and that others also have "self." The contributors offer explanations of this concept from various modalities, and how, when this concept goes awry, psychopathology may develop.
Purpose: The purpose is to explain the "theory of mind" phenomenon from such viewpoints as normal development, neurobiology, and evolutionary biology, and then to apply these various explanations to help explain a variety of human behaviors, both normal and abnormal. The main focus is on autism, but other disease states such as schizophrenia are also discussed.
Audience: The book is written for researchers and clinicians in psychology, psychiatry, neurology, and primatology. Researchers from all these disciplines would find it useful; clinicians probably less so, unless their practice involves treating children and childhood developmental issues.
Features: The book is composed of numerous chapters, each written by contributors who are considered authorities in their fields. It is divided into four pans: normal theory of mind development and autism, neurobiological aspects, clinical applications, and evolutionary/anthropological theories. What stands out in this book is how well the editors manage to tie together these various disciplines to help explain how the theory of mind develops and how, when development is interrupted, certain pathologies can develop.
Assessment: This is an important work in a rapidly changing field. The editors and contributors attempt to explain the always elusive concept of self-awareness. They also attempt to explain that perhaps uniquely-human quality of realizing that others, also, are self-aware, and how this ability is crucial in normal human development. Unlike many other books on this subject, the editors approach the concept from several different perspectives and succeed in offering an explanation using all these modalities. The book's usefulness is perhaps limited to researchers and child/developmental psychologists, but anyone interested in the subject will find it exciting reading.