Why We Think We Can’t Dance
The study sought to establish the correlation between gains in theory of mind (ToM) and a decrease in children’s aspiration to perform. The study primarily focused on dancing as a performative behavior. It hypothesized that while there were gains, (ToM improves self-esteem among older children), it leads to increased awareness of criticism and consequently a decrease in self-esteem. The study was conducted by individually interviewing 159 middle-class children aged between 3 and 12 years. The children selected were from summer camps and from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The interviews involved completion of a preference task with four randomly selected task options which included dancing, singing, square coloring and circling red shapes. However, the research focused on dancing and singing. The children also completed a ToM task based on established research-based protocols which had control and task questions (Chaplin & Norton, 2015).
The results showed that there was a negative correlation between age and choosing singing and dancing. That is, younger children (ages 3 to 4 years) preferred dancing and singing. However, there was a positive correlation between age and choosing circling and coloring. There was a positive correlation between ToM and age with older children (ages 11 and 12 years) recording higher scores with the inflection being 5 and 6 years. Self-esteem was negatively correlated to ToM and age as older children tended to score lower points on ToM and self-esteem tests. The results imply that older children are better equipped with the ability to assess the perception of others on their performance. They ultimately avoid performative behavior because of fear of being judged negatively (Chaplin & Norton, 2015).
One of the fundamental limitations of the study was its inability to establish the causal effect that ToM has on performance. Moreover, the study did not use ToM measures that were specific to different age brackets. It also used the assumption that self-esteem was not multi-faceted. The study was explicit and not implicit. It also did not take into account the various factors affecting play, including peer audience. Despite these limitations, the conclusions are merited as the researchers successfully tested their hypothesis. Future studies should use a multifaceted approach in testing self-esteem as well as use specific age-based testing methods to avoid over-generalization (Chaplin & Norton, 2015).
Chaplin, L. N., & Norton, M. I. (2015). Why we think we can’t dance: Theory of mind and children’s desire to perform. Child Development, 86(2), 651–658