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PSYC 3410 (14)

Searching for and Assessing Theory of Mind in Autism.doc

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York University
PSYC 3410
Michael Luther

Searching for and Assessing Theory of Mind in Autism Theory of mind = TOM - The ability to read other individuals - The ability to relate to other people - The ability to be in touch with the self (social and emotional intelligence) - An important cognitive skill “The ability of normal people to be aware of mental states in themselves and in others in order to explain and predict behaviour.” The term “Theory of Mind” was coined by PREMACK & WOODRUFF • They consider it to be “a mentalizing skill in children” • Involves mind reading, so to speak Frye, Zelazo & Burack “How children understand their own and other people’s beliefs and desires.” SACKS – An Anthropologist on Mars • Autistic people “have no true concept of, or feeling for, other minds, or even their own; they have, in the jargon of cognitive psychology, no “theory of mind.” • Temple Grandin  suffers from Asperger’s syndrome  As a young girl, unable to interpret simple expressions of emotion  Had to learn to decode them  Earned a Ph.D. in Engineering Background Baron-Cohen et al. • “a mechanism which underlies a crucial aspect of social skills, namely being able to conceive of mental states” that is, knowing what other people know, want, feel or believe (about) things; in short, having a theory of mind.” • Interested in child’s “eye direction” and pointing behaviour • With autistic children, “both pretend play and joint-attention behaviours are thought to be early precursors in the development of a theory of mind.” • When working with autistic and non-autistic one years olds, Baron Cohen found that autistic children showed:  Lack of pretend play  Lack of protodeclarative pointing  Lack of social interest  Lack of social play  Lack of joint-attention o These were considered important precursors leading to an impaired theory of mind in autistic children o One ½ year olds that failed the theory of mind tasks (on a checklist) were diagnosed with autism at 3 years old  The checklist became the CHAT  MCHAT • Failure on two “critical” items is enough to warrant the tentative diagnosis of Autism Pervasive Developmental Disorder o Not bringing objects to parents o Not pointing at things • Failure on any three items (out of 25 items) is considered to be significant diagnosis of PDD Theory of Mind Mechanism (ToMM) • Analysis of the cognitive structuring of theory of mind. • Concept is based on the understanding of certain objects and their mechanical properties. BARTSCH & WELLMAN • There are three phases of development 1. Early phase  children are able to talk about “desires, “wants,” and “likes,” in various situations 2. By third birthday  children can talk about mental states and wants 3. Third phase, by fourth birthday  children begin to have an ability to understand “mind and action”  Children realize that another person may have different beliefs about the world than they do Frames of Mind Gardner found that adults posses both interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences. Good interpersonal intelligence  Can read other people well  Get along socially Good intrapersonal intelligence  In touch with his/her own feelings  Able to control his or her behaviour Personal intelligence  Allows us to formulate theories and beliefs about other individuals  Develop a prepositional account of our own person Psychopaths may be talented at reading other people’s “intentions and motivations” but they are not sensitive to their own feelings or motivations. Cultural Deprivation Feuerstein, Rand, Miller and Hoffman  Researched the adverse effects of “cultural deprivation” on the development of thinking skills in disadvantaged children. o This cultural deprivation results in a condition that resembles retardation, but is really a condition called “mediational deprivation.” o Children has been deprived of the ability to form a theory of mind due to a poverty of social learning experiences  Children who did not experience rich interactions with adult “mediators” (parents, teachers) tended to: • Score lower on IQ tests • Did more poorly in school • Experienced behaviour and emotional problems to a greater extent than did middle-class children • These teens showed deficits in areas such as: o Egocentricity o Impulsiveness in social situations o An episodic grasp of reality (resembling psychosis) o Temporary disorder that could be remediated o Taught children how to:  Take the other person’s point of view (perspective taking)  Be less impetuous  Plan  View reality in a more realistic way Brain Damage Left hemisphere  more orientated towards euphoria, happiness and optimism Right hemisphere more orientated
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