Understanding of thought bubbles as mental representations in children with autism: implications for theory of mind

Sharyn Kerr, Kevin Durkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Standard false belief tasks indicate that normally developing children do not fully develop a theory of mind until the age of 4 years and that children with autism have an impaired theory of mind. Recent evidence, however, suggests that children as young as 3 years of age understand that thought bubbles depict mental representations and that these can be false. Twelve normally developing children and 11 children with autism were tested on a standard false belief task and a number of tasks that employed thought bubbles to represent mental states. While the majority of normally developing children and children with autism failed the standard false belief task, they understood that (i) thought bubbles represent thought, (ii) thought bubbles can be used to infer an unknown reality, (iii) thoughts can be different, and (iv) thoughts can be false. These results indicate that autistic children with a relatively low verbal mental age may be capable of understanding mental representations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-648
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Volume34
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004

Keywords

  • children with autism
  • theory of mind
  • false belief task
  • thought bubbles
  • mental states
  • mindreading
  • autism

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