Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Simon Baron-Cohen on Autism - Dictionary of Arguments

Slater I 150
Autism/ToM/Theory of Mind/Baron-Cohen: In order to test their hypothesis that children with autism lack a theory of mind (>Theory of Mind/Dennett
, >False-Belief Task/psychological theories), Baron-Cohen et al. (1985)(1) presented this task to 20 children with autism, 14 children with Down’s syndrome (DS), and 27 typically developing (TD) children.
In line with their predictions, they found that as many as 16 of the 20 children with autism failed the task whereas children with Down’s syndrome and TD children passed it 86% and 85% of the time, respectively. The results were all the more striking given that average intelligence levels in the autism group exceeded both that of the DS and of the TD group and that every participant in the autism group succeeded in answering both control questions. The authors interpreted these results as evidence for a selective impairment in mentalistic reasoning in autism, independently of general intelligence or general reasoning abilities. In other words, the reason why participants in the autism group fail the belief question is that they are unable to grasp that Sally’s belief about where the marble is hidden is different from their own knowledge of where the marble really is: they lack the ability to represent other people’s mental states. >False-Belief Task/Happé.
Slater I 152
VsBaron-Cohen: 1) The ToM account does not provide a full account auf autism.
2) ToM deficits are not specific to autism,
3) ToM deficits are not universal in autism.
There are now theories about the non-social features of autism, including restricted repertoire of interests, insistence on sameness, and peaks of abilities (e.g., enhanced rote memory, higher prevalence of savant skills, increased perception of pitch etc.). >Autism/psychological theories.
It is important to note, however, that these first two criticisms are problematic only If one considers that there ought to be a single explanation for all the symptoms found in ASD.
Slater I 153
If (…) one considers, that such a unitary explanation is unlikely to exist, absence of specificity and lack of explanatory power for non-social features of autism are no longer issues. >Theory of Mind/Baron-Cohen, >Autism/psychological theories.

1. Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A., & Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind.” Cognition, 21, 13—125.

Coralie Chevallier, “Theory of Mind and Autism. Beyond Baron-Cohen et al’s. Sally-Anne Study”, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Baron-Cohen, Simon
Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012

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