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Belief-Attribution in Adults with and without Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Bradford, Elisabeth E.F., Hukker, Vera, Smith, Laura, Ferguson, Heather J. (2018) Belief-Attribution in Adults with and without Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Autism Research, 11 (11). pp. 1542-1553. ISSN 1939-3792. E-ISSN 1939-3806. (doi:10.1002/aur.2032) (KAR id:69151)


An important aspect of daily life is the ability to infer information about the contents of other people’s minds, such as what they can see and what they know, in order to engage in successful interactions. This is referred to as possession of a ‘Theory of Mind’ (ToM). Past research has shown that adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often show deficits in social communication abilities, although can successfully pass tests of explicit ToM. The current study utilized a computerized false-belief task to explore subtle differences (i.e., measuring response times and accuracy rates) in how efficiently ToM capacities – specifically, belief-attribution – are utilized in adults with and without ASD. In the task, participants were asked to attribute a belief-state to either themselves or another person, following establishment of a true or false-belief scenario. Results revealed comparable patterns of ToM engagement across individuals with and without ASD, with faster and more accurate responses to ‘Self’ versus ‘Other’ oriented questions, and slower response times when shifting between the ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ perspective compared to when maintaining a perspective. However, autistic individuals showed a particular deficit in correctly identifying a belief-state in false-belief trials, in which two contrasting belief-states had to be held in mind, suggesting more difficulty disengaging from current, reality based belief-states than neuro-typical individuals.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1002/aur.2032
Uncontrolled keywords: Theory of Mind; False-Belief; Belief-Attribution; Perspective-Taking; Autistic Spectrum Disorders
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: [37325] UNSPECIFIED
Depositing User: Lizzie Bradford
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2018 10:42 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 16:47 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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