Theory of Mind is a superpower in public relations.
The ability to comprehend the thoughts and emotions of others holds transformative potential in the realm of communication. By grasping the intricacies of people’s inner worlds, one can revolutionize their approach to interpersonal interactions.
Delving deeper into the Theory of Mind is vital in this journey.
Enhancing your awareness of this concept can significantly increase your communication skills.
Here we go:
A Brief History of Theory of Mind
The concept of the Theory of Mind was first introduced in the 1970s by developmental psychologists who were studying the way children understand others’ beliefs, intentions, and emotions.
Through various experiments, researchers have discovered that children begin to understand that people have different thoughts and feelings based on their unique perspectives and experiences around age four. 1Theory of mind. (2023, April 21). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_mind
As the study of the Theory of Mind evolved, researchers found that it plays a crucial role in social cognition and interpersonal relationships. It enables us to predict and interpret others’ actions, empathise, and communicate effectively.
Today, the Theory of Mind is considered an essential aspect of human interaction, which can benefit PR professionals in numerous ways.
Identifying Theory of Mind in PR and Communications
“In psychology, theory of mind refers to the capacity to understand other people by ascribing mental states to them (that is, surmising what is happening in their mind). This includes the knowledge that others’ mental states may be different from one’s own states and include beliefs, desires, intentions, emotions, and thoughts.”
PR professionals and communicators with a strong Theory of Mind can better understand their audience, create more compelling messages, and build lasting relationships.
Here are seven real-life situations where the Theory of Mind can make a difference:
Enhancing Your Theory of Mind Awareness
To improve your Theory of Mind as a PR professional, consider these three mindsets:
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Apperly, I. A. (2011). Mindreaders: The cognitive basis of “Theory of Mind”. Psychology Press.
Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., & Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21(1), 37 – 46.
Premack, D., & Woodruff, G. (1978). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1(4), 515 – 526.
PR Resource: Perception Management
Walter Lippmann: Public Opinion and Perception Management
No one is basing their attitudes and behaviours on reality; we’re basing them on our perceptions of reality.
Walter Lippmann (1889 – 1974) proposed that our perceptions of reality differ from the actual reality. The reality is too vast and too complex for anyone to process. 2Lippmann, Walter. 1960. Public Opinion (1922). New York: Macmillan.
The research on perception management is focused on how organisations can create a desired reputation:
“The OPM [Organizational Perception Management] field focuses on the range of activities that help organisations establish and/or maintain a desired reputation (Staw et al., 1983). More specifically, OPM research has primarily focused on two interrelated factors: (1) the timing and goals of perception management activities and (2) specific perception management tactics (Elsbach, 2006).”
Source: Hargis, M. & Watt, John 3Hargis, M. & Watt, John. (2010). Organizational perception management: A framework to overcome crisis events. Organization Development Journal. 28. 73 – 87.
Today, our perceptions are heavily influenced by news media and influencers, algorithms, and social graphs. Therefore, perception management is more critical than ever before.
“We are all captives of the picture in our head — our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.”
— Walter Lippmann
Learn more: Walter Lippmann: Public Opinion and Perception Management
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|1||Theory of mind. (2023, April 21). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_mind|
|2||Lippmann, Walter. 1960. Public Opinion (1922). New York: Macmillan.|
|3||Hargis, M. & Watt, John. (2010). Organizational perception management: A framework to overcome crisis events. Organization Development Journal. 28. 73 – 87.|