Theory of Mind Development and Narrative Writing

A longitudinal study

Keywords: Theory of Mind, narrative writing, language development, the appraisal system


The purpose of this paper is to study the development of Theory of Mind capacities in one individual´s narrative writing from year 1 in elementary school through high school and onwards. To this end this longitudinal study focuses on evaluative expressions while drawing on the Appraisal theoretical frame work, developed by Martin (2000) and Martin and White (2005). Both quantitative and qualitative methods are applied. The findings illustrate clear developmental trends in the evaluative choices regarding Appraisal categories, as well as the amount and types of evaluations, and the linguistic realizations of the evaluations in the texts. The findings also display how the individual´s Theory of Mind capacities are inextricably linked to the level of advancement in linguistic repertoire and an increased complexity and sophistication in the organization of narrative structure. The paper concludes with a discussion of some pedagogical implications of the study.

Author Biography

Birgitta E. Svensson, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Birgitta Svensson is a senior lecturer in language education at University of Gothenburg. Her areas of research interest are narrative writing development, language education, linguistics and literature, the relationship between literature and theory of mind, including picture books, and metaphorical thinking and development. Her publications include reader response theories and the teaching of literature, writing to learn across the curriculum, and most recently the research monograph Form-function relations in narrative development: How Anna became a writer (2018), John Benjamins Publishing Company.