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Simon Baron-Cohen on Theory of Mind - Dictionary of Arguments

Slater I 149
Theory of Mind/ToM/autism/false-belief task/Baron-Cohen: How does one demonstrate that an individual has the capacity to conceive mental states?
Baron-Cohen et al. 1985)(1) children are told a story involving two dolls, Sally and Anne, playing with a marble. Sally puts the marble away in a basket, and leaves the room. In Sally’s absence, Anne takes the marble out and plays with it.
Once she has finished playing, she puts the marble away in a box. Sally returns and the child is asked where Sally will look for the marble. The child passes the task if she answers that Sally will look where she first put the marble; the child fails the task if she answers that Sally will look in the box (where the marble really is). Two additional control questions are asked to make sure that the child understood the scenario: a reality question: “Where is the marble really?” and a memory question: “Where was the marble at the beginning?”
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.
Slater I 152
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.


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


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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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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2022-06-30
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