Using theory of mind to represent and take part in social interactions: Comparing individuals with high-functioning autism and typically developing controls
Begeer, S., Malle, B. F., Nieuwland, M. S., & Keysar, B.
Using theory of mind to represent and take part in social interactions: Comparing individuals with high-functioning autism and typically developing controls. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 7
(1), 104-122. doi:10.1080/17405620903024263.
The literature suggests that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are deficient in their Theory of Mind (ToM) abilities. They sometimes do not seem to appreciate that behaviour is motivated by underlying mental states. If this is true, then individuals with ASD should also be deficient when they use their ToM to represent and take part in dyadic interactions. In the current study we compared the performance of normally intelligent adolescents and adults with ASD to typically developing controls. In one task they heard a narrative about an interaction and then retold it. In a second task they played a communication game that required them to take into account another person's perspective. We found that when they described people's behaviour the ASD individuals used fewer mental terms in their story narration, suggesting a lower tendency to represent interactions in mentalistic terms. Surprisingly, ASD individuals and control participants showed the same level of performance in the communication game that required them to distinguish between their beliefs and the other's beliefs. Given that ASD individuals show no deficiency in using their ToM in real interaction, it is unlikely that they have a systematically deficient ToM.