Does the autistic-child have a metarepresentational deficit

Leekam, Sue R. and Perner, J. (1991) Does the autistic-child have a metarepresentational deficit. Cognition, 40 (3). pp. 203-218. ISSN 0010-0277. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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This study examines the claim that autistic children lack a "theory of mind" because of an inability to metarepresent. We argue that if autistic children have a "metarepresentational" deficit in Leslie's (1987, 1988) sense of the term, then they should have difficulty not only with mental representations such as false beliefs, but also with external representations such as photographs. Autistic children's understanding of photographic representations was tested using Zaitchik's (1990) task. This task is modelled on the false belief task (Baron-Cohen, Leslie, & Frith, 1985; Wimmer & Perner, 1983) but involves "false" photographs where a photographic representation does not conform with the current state of the real world. Like Zaitchik (1990) we found that normal 3 and 4-year-olds found this task as difficult as the false belief task. In sharp contrast, however, the autistic children in our study passed the photograph task but failed the false belief task. As both tasks require the ability to decouple, this evidence challenges the view that autistic children lack "metarepresentational" ability in Leslie's sense. However, the results leave open the question of whether autistic children have a metarepresentational ability in the different sense of the term intended by Pylyshyn (1978), that is, representing the relationship between a representation and what it represents.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: O.O. Odanye
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2009 18:46
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2014 14:12
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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