Section 2, Article 3 - Children in the preschool stage of development begin to develop a theory of mind in which they understand and are aware of what others might be thinking. The developing ability to formulate ideas of others’ thought processes is reflective of children’s overarching desire to develop theories to explain the world around them. This is known as theory-theory and is evident of the growing maturation of the child’s prefrontal cortex and executive processing abilities (). However, brain maturation is not the only influence on the development of thought processes, as the child’s environment or nurture is also important. Studies reveal that a child’s theory of mind is heavily influenced by the communications between parents, siblings, and peers (). Children who have older siblings mature at a more rapid pace than their peers who do not have older siblings (). As children begin to understand that others have perceptions, emotions, and desires just like they do they also realize that others can hold false beliefs. This crucial shift in mental processing is usually accomplished by the age of 5 (; ).
Information processing abilities undergo fundamental changes in the early childhood years. Aspects of particular importance for this stage of development are attention and memory. Attention, or focusing one’s mental energy on specific information, changes in three significant ways during the preschool years. The first change in attention is the time span the child is able to hold their focus on an object or task. This executive attention requires action planning, goal formation, finding and making up for errors, monitoring one’s progress on different tasks, and handling new and challenging situations (; ).
The second deficit in preschoolers’ attention is their preference to focus on the salient dimensions, which are the aspects that stand out of their environment even if it is irrelevant to the task at hand. Planfulness is a similar shortcoming of preschoolers’ attention. This third principle deficit is seen when children fail to suspend judgment until they have examined all aspects of a stimulus and instead act haphazardly (). Once children enter into the elementary school age, they have developed the ability to reflect more and act less impulsively (). A central process in the developing child’s thought processes is increases in memory: the retention of information over time. People generally have little to no memory of events before the age of 3, which is largely the result of insufficiencies in executive functioning. The preschool years are marked with advances in both short term and long term memory, however, their long term memory may not always be accurate as they are often susceptible to suggestion (; ).