Do we know what they are thinking? Theory of Mind and affect in the classroom

  • Aimee Knupsky Allegheny College
  • M. Soledad Caballero Allegheny College
Keywords: Theory of Mind, Affect, Rapport, Classroom Contribution, classroom dynamics


Research on Theory of Mind explores how we develop the capacity to understand that others have thoughts and feelings that differ from our own and how we are compelled to “read” them. However, a preponderance of evidence from the cognitive humanities and cognitive neurosciences tells us that our readings are often misguided or just plain wrong. None of this work has considered how teachers and learners might engage in open conversations about theory to mind to identify misperceptions and enhance their understanding of one another’s thoughts and reactions in the classroom. In this essay, we explore how using what we call “Theory of Minding” as a rhetorical device may invite moments of vulnerability and of clarification when we engage in learning with our students, thus enhancing classroom dynamics. We describe how the idea of Theory of Minding developed, present an initial evaluation of it by students, and situate this technique in the rich literature about affect and pedagogy. We propose that using Theory of Minding in the classroom can be used to encourage more authentic and interactive engagement.

Author Biographies

Aimee Knupsky, Allegheny College

Aimee Knupsky is Associate Professor of Psychology at Allegheny College (USA). She is a cognitive psychologist and does research in the cognitive humanities.

M. Soledad Caballero, Allegheny College

M. Soledad Caballero is Professor of English at Allegheny College (USA). She is a British Romanticist and poet and does research in the cognitive humanities.


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How to Cite
Knupsky, Aimee, and M. Soledad Caballero. 2020. “Do We Know What They Are Thinking? Theory of Mind and Affect in the Classroom”. Teaching & Learning Inquiry 8 (1), 108-21.