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Theory of Mind: Autism as Mindblindness?. Dr Jason Low School of Psychology Victoria University of Wellington. Georges de la Tour, The Fortune Teller. ToM and the full range of mental states. Theory of mind is one quintessential ability that makes us human

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theory of mind autism as mindblindness

Theory of Mind: Autism as Mindblindness?

Dr Jason Low

School of Psychology

Victoria University of Wellington

tom and the full range of mental states
ToM and the full range of mental states
  • Theory of mind is one quintessential ability that makes us human
  • Test of Tom have been found to be effective as markers of pervasive developmental disorders (e.g., autism)
  • Autism as mind-blindness
1 mental physical distinction
1. Mental Physical Distinction
  • Wellman & Estes (1986)
    • Listen to two stories
    • A is thinking about a dog vs B is holding a dog
    • Who can pat the dog?
  • Baron-Cohen (1989): 3-4 yr olds vs. children with autism with vma of 4 yrs
2 appearance reality distinction
2. Appearance Reality Distinction
  • Flavell, Green & Flavell (1986)
    • Sponge-rock
  • Baron-Cohen (1989)
    • 3-4 yrs vs cwa (4yrs vma)
    • Autism difficult with understanding different between subjective and objective reality
3 first order false belief tasks
3. First Order False Belief Tasks
  • Inferring one person’s mental state
  • Unexpected Contents
  • Unexpected Transfer
    • Sally-Anne Experiment (Baron-Cohen et al., 1985)
    • Critical question: “Where will Sally look for her marble?”
    • Problems: general intellectual understanding? Memory problems?
    • Control groups: normal & downs + Where did Sally put the marble in the beginning? & Where is the marble now?
4 seeing leads to knowing
4. Seeing leads to knowing
  • Where does knowledge come from, and who knows what, and who doesn’t know what
  • 3 year olds grasp principle
  • Baron-Cohen & Goodhart (1994) – autism at chance level only
5 production of range of mental state words
5. Production of range of mental state words
  • CWA produce fewer mental state words in their spontaneous description of picture stories (e.g., Baron-Cohen et al., 1986)
6 spontaneous pretend play
6. Spontaneous pretend play
  • Lower frequency amongst cwa (e.g., Lewis & Boucher, 1988)
7 understanding how belief causes emotion
7. Understanding how belief causes emotion
  • Emotions can be caused by situation (falling over and crying)
  • But can also be caused by mental states (desires and beliefs)
  • CWA with vma of 3 have difficulty with mental states as causes of emotion (Baron-Cohen, 1991)
8 mentalistic interpretation of gaze
8. Mentalistic interpretation of gaze
  • Baron-Cohen et al. (1995)
    • Which one is Charlie going to take?
    • What is Charlie looking at?
10 figurative speech
10. Figurative speech
  • Baron-Cohen (1997)
    • Metaphor, sarcasm, jokes
11 pragmatics
11. Pragmatics
  • Sensitivity to speaker and listener mental states

Bleed

Yes

12 imagination
12. Imagination
  • Draw a pretend looking person (e.g., a person with two heads).
components of a theory of mind
Components of a Theory of Mind

ID

Desires & Goals

"Mary wants the apple"

EDD

Eyes can see things

"Mary sees the apple"

SAM

Infers desires & goals based on eye direction

"I see that Mary wants the apple"

TOMM

Allows the full range of mental states

"I think Mary will take and eat the apple after seeing it"

mind blindness or executive dysfunction
Mind-blindness or executive dysfunction?
  • Mechanism which enables the normal person to shift attention flexibly, inhibit stereotypical responses, generate goal directed behaviour and solve problems in a planful manner
  • ToM correlates with tests of executive functioning (e.g., Tower of Hanoi)
problems with a strong eft account
Problems with a strong EFT account
  • Executive dysfunction occurs in a large number of other clinical disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, OCD, Tourettes, anxiety disorder, ADHD
  • A narrower executive dysfunction? – in autism there is a deficit in disengaging from the salience of reality
  • But in a number of tests where cwa have to disengage from reality, the pass!
    • Leslie’s False photograph test
so what of tom
So what of ToM?
  • ToM is not reducible to executive function
  • EFT deficits may co-occur with mind-blindness because both share same brain origins (frontal lobes)
  • Two cognitive deficits may be separately responsible for different types of behaviours in autism
  • But EFT researchers point to modified false photo test with strong EFT demands (see Russell, Saltmarsh, & Hill, 1999)