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Mindblind Eyes: An Absence of Spontaneous Theory of Mind in Asperger Syndrome

Senju, A; Southgate, V; White, S; Frith, U; (2009) Mindblind Eyes: An Absence of Spontaneous Theory of Mind in Asperger Syndrome. SCIENCE , 325 (5942) 883 - 885. 10.1126/science.1176170.

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Abstract

Adults with Asperger syndrome can understand mental states such as desires and beliefs (mentalizing) when explicitly prompted to do so, despite having impairments in social communication. We directly tested the hypothesis that such individuals nevertheless fail to mentalize spontaneously. To this end, we used an eye-tracking task that has revealed the spontaneous ability to mentalize in typically developing infants. We showed that, like infants, neurotypical adults' (n = 17 participants) eye movements anticipated an actor's behavior on the basis of her false belief. This was not the case for individuals with Asperger syndrome (n = 19). Thus, these individuals do not attribute mental states spontaneously, but they may be able to do so in explicit tasks through compensatory learning.

Type: Article
Title: Mindblind Eyes: An Absence of Spontaneous Theory of Mind in Asperger Syndrome
DOI: 10.1126/science.1176170
Keywords: FUNCTIONING AUTISM, FALSE BELIEF, ANIMATED SHAPES, MENTAL STATES, ATTRIBUTION, CHILDREN, INFANTS, BRAIN, 2-YEAR-OLDS, UNDERSTAND
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/134660
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