For the second blog in our SGM® Summer Study Series, we will focus on Perspective-Taking in literature, using an example that Maryellen Rooney Moreau presented last weekend at Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Providers’ Conference in San Francisco. In 2003, Winner stated: “Perspective taking is needed for social interaction, academic success and personal problem-solving as an adult.” Social Thinking, the work of Winner, heavily focuses on perspective-taking. Maryellen’s presentation, meant to exemplify this statement, was called Let’s Think About It! Perspective-Taking And The Thought Process Of Opinion/Argument Using The Story Grammar Marker®. In her presentation she covered the following topics:
These are all topics that Maryellen weaves into her workshops as she travels to school districts. (Click here to request information about how Maryellen could come to your district.)
In our book, Making Connections, we dedicate a whole chapter to perspective-taking. Perspective-taking is the ability to see points of view other than one’s own. Researcher Gordon Moskowitz of Lehigh University says: “We must be able to stand in the shoes of others, see the world through their eyes, empathize with what they are feeling, and attempt to think and react to the world in the same way that they think and react to the world” (Moskowitz, 2005, p. 277). Perspective-taking is essential for relating to the world, solving problems, developing peer relationships in school or at work, maintaining friendships, initiating and nurturing romantic relationships and joining & belonging to sports, extracurricular activities, groups & clubs. Below are two perspective-taking maps from Making Connections that can be used to explore kick-offs, feelings and mental states of people/characters.
According to research, perspective-taking can be divided into three areas: the perceptual level, understanding how others perceive the world, the cognitive level, understanding others’ knowledge and beliefs (theory of mind) and the social level, understanding others’ motivations, feelings and thoughts. (Tsunemi, et al., 2014). This research by Tsunemi, et al suggests that children with autism in particular have difficulty in all three areas of perspective taking but that most studies of autism emphasize impairment at the cognitive level also known as theory of mind problem (ToM) .
The Story Grammar Marker® is a tool for narrative development. It is interesting that the study done by Tsunemi et al found that experience with narrative comprehension would increase social perspective-taking abilities in children with autism. They noted that understanding the mental states of others in social relationships could be improved by reading about and analyzing characters in stories. They explained that “understanding a narrative requires one to understand the intentions, goals, emotions as well as other mental state of characters, which is known as mentalizing (Frith and Frith, 2003). For narrative comprehension, one must take the perspective of a character and mentally represent his/her emotional state. This is the essential process of successful social perspective-taking” (Tsunemi, et al., 2014, pp 6).
Use of MindWing’s Critical Thinking Triangle® of the Story Grammar Marker® is a visual, explicit way of analyzing the motivations, feelings, thoughts/mental states and plans of characters (and of people in real life situations). In the following example, we analyzed perspectives of four different characters using the Critical Thinking Triangle®. This example would be great to use in summer school. We used a selection for middle/high school since most of the time examples are geared toward elementary age students.
This example uses Emma, a book by Jane Austen, who is an exemplar author found in Appendix B of the Common Core State Standards. Often times, finding engaging ways to present complex literature to adolescents is a challenge. First published in 1815, the main character of the book Emma is Emma Woodhouse, whose attempts at matchmaking, her imagination and her social perceptions drive the plot of the story. The movie version starred Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Toni Collette & Jeremy Northam. Below is a scene from Chapter 43 of the book. Please view it and then see the analysis of perspectives using the Critical Thinking Triangle® - a great example of social perspective taking.
Austen, J. (1999). Emma. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.
Moreau, M. (2010). Making Connections. Springfield: MindWing Concepts, Inc.
Moskowitz, G. (2005). Social Cognition. New York: The Guilford Press.
Tsunemi, K., Tamura, A., Ogawa, S., Isomura, T., Ito, H., Ida, M. and Masataka, N. (2014). Intensive exposure to narrative in story books as a possibly effective treatment of social perspective-taking in schoolchildren with autism. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 2. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00002