The Theory Of Mind, Empathy, And Mindblindness In eLearning

The Theory Of Mind, Empathy, And Mindblindness In eLearning
Summary: Being aware of differing perspectives and how our emotional states and beliefs shape us is an essential social skill. It also allows us to communicate more effectively and collaborate with others in our personal and professional lives. In this article, I'll share 5 tips on how the Theory of Mind, Empathy, and Minblindness can transform your eLearning experiences.

5 Tips To Integrate The Theory Of Mind, Empathy, And Mindblindness In eLearning Course Design

Premack, Woodruff, Perner, and Wimmer all played a vital role in the development of the Theory of Mind, Empathy, and Mindblindness. This theory refers to a learner's ability to comprehend that others have different viewpoints, and that those viewpoints have a direct impact on their behavior. An individual who lacks this ability may be "mind blind", as they do not have the empathy to relate to others on a more profound level. Here are some of the ways that Instructional Designers can use this theory to encourage online learners to be more collaborativecompassionate, and communicative.

  1. Encourage online learners to challenge their own beliefs.
    This can be one of the most challenging things to accomplish, even if you are a naturally empathic person. It’s difficult to step inside someone else’s shoes and see things from a fresh perspective. It’s even more difficult, however, to challenge the beliefs that you’ve held onto and come to grips with the fact that there may be another angle to consider. You can encourage online learners to challenge their own beliefs by asking thought provoking questions that center on presuppositions or assumptions. If they make a statement, for example, ask them why they hold that belief or opinion and how it may be holding them back.
  2. Create collaborative eLearning exercises that build empathetic skills.
    eLearning courses can lack that social element that is crucial for developing empathy skills. However, encouraging your online learners to engage in collaborative eLearning activities can help them communicate effectively with others and see the world from a different viewpoint. It’s believed that human beings don’t start developing the ability to acknowledge others' needs and emotions until we are about 3 or 4 years old. This is why young children often find it difficult to empathize with their peers or recognize their emotions. As we grow older we gradually develop this ability, but in some cases it may need to be honed and crafted through practice. A collaborative eLearning  exercise exposes learners to the personal experience, beliefs, and opinions of their peers. Thus, they are able to step outside of their own minds and acknowledge that other’s thoughts and ideas hold value.
  3. Develop eLearning scenarios and simulations that test emotional recognition.
    You can test your online learners' ability to recognize emotional cues by developing eLearning scenarios or interactive presentations that center on the Theory of Mind. Include a wide range of characters who are exhibiting different emotions. Some may be more subtle about their cues while others are more obvious. Ask online learners to identify their emotions and give a brief explanation about how they arrived at their conclusions. You can even take it a step further by asking online learners how they might respond to the character and offer them support. For instance, would they approach someone who is sad or would they avoid communicating with them? Their responses can tell you a great deal about their empathy levels and their awareness of other’s emotions.
  4. Offer support resources to those who may show signs of mindblindness.
    If you discover that certain online learners are unable to recognize emotions or respect the viewpoints of others, then you may wish to offer them support resources that can fine tune these abilities. Mindblindness is also known as the Theory of Mind impairment, due to the fact that the individual cannot relate with others or understand that people may have perspectives that differ from their own. In some cases, online learners may be able to develop skills that can reduce this impairment, such as communication or collaboration skills. If possible, speak one-on-one with the online learner to get a better idea of what skills they lack and their level of mindblindness, then custom tailor the resources to meet their specific needs and preferences.
  5. Tap into the power of past experience.
    The principle of "mental simulation" suggests that human beings are able to predict the behavior, emotions, and actions of others by tapping into past personal experiences. In essence, we think back to what we did in the same situation and base our assumptions on our own reactions and thoughts. This doesn’t mean we are psychic, but that our minds simply have the ability to see patterns or similarities between our personal histories and what is happening with another individual at his very moment. eLearning professionals have the chance to utilize these past experiences by encouraging online learners to apply what they have learned to the current situation. By doing so they build onto their existing knowledge base and gain even more experience, which helps them to broaden their understanding of other’s emotions and perspectives.

The Theory of Mind, Empathy, and Minblindness extends far beyond the virtual classroom. Online learners who recognize that others hold different beliefs and empathize with their peers have the potential to be active and productive members within the online community. These tips can help you strengthen these abilities among your audience.

Social intelligence is closely related to the Theory of Mind, Empathy, and Mindblindness. Read the article The Impact Of Social Intelligence In eLearning to get informed about the impact of social intelligence in eLearning and explore its many dimensions.