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Josh's AS Psychology Core Studies > Baron-Cohen > Flashcards

Flashcards in Baron-Cohen Deck (19)
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What is autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder affecting an individual's ability to communicate and socially interact. Individuals diagnosed with autism show a tremendous variation in the degree to which they are affected. To address this issue a 'spectrum of autism' was devised. Difficulties experienced by children, judged in relation to set criteria, allow them to be placed within the spectrum.


Asperger's syndrome (AS)


Those with AS show the same characteristics as autism but are of average or above average intelligence and appear to have good communication skills, though this may not actually be the case


What is mind blindness?

The most influential theory of autism in recent years maintains that what all autistic people have in common is the core deficit of mind-blindness
--This is a severe impairment in their understanding of mental states and in their appreciation of how mental states govern behaviour. They therefore have an impaired theory of mind.


What is the theory of mind?

The ability to recognise that others have minds and that these may be different to our own- e.g. the ability to recognise that we all have different thoughts, knowledge and emotions.


What would impaired TOM explain?

The social, communicative and imaginative abnormalities that are characteristic of autism.
As individuals with autism fail to develop the ability to attribute mental states to other people, fundamental implications arise for communication, where making sense of other's intentions enables the listener to understand what is being said, inferred or intended.


What does evidence suggest about TOMS?

That a deficit is not a core deficit in autism. However no conclusive evidence has yet shown that individuals such as adults with 'high functioning autism' or AS have an intact TOM. This is because usual tests to assess theory of mind have a ceiling in developmental terms corresponding to a mental age of about 6 years. Therefore, although existing theory of tests are challenging for 6 year olds, they are far too easy for adults who may pass the tests even though they may noy have a fully functioning TOM.


Theory of mind tests

Sally Anne test

Sally puts her marble in the basket and leaves the room, the marble is transferred by Anne to the box. Sally then returns. The children are then asked a variety of questions about the location of the marble and what Sally and Anne both believe.


Theory of mind test for children

Happe's strange stories

This involved answering questions on a selection of stories and the characters within them. The stories require participants to judge the mental states (experimental) or physical states i.e. non mental states (control) of others. The story types comprised double bluff, figure of speech, joke, lie, pretend, sarcasm and white lie.


Happe's strange stories

Physical State Example

Two enemy powers have been at war for a very long time. Each army has won several battles, but now the outcome could go either way. The forces are equally matched. However, the blue army is stronger than the yellow army in foot soldiers and artillery, but the yellow army is stronger than the blue army in air power.
On the day of the final battle, which will decide the outcome of the war, there is a heavy fog over the mountains where the fighting is about to occur. Low-lying clouds hang above the soldiers. By the end of the day the blue army won.

QUESTION: Why did the blue army win?


Happe's strange stories

Mental state example

Katie and emma are playing in the house. Emma picks up a banana from the fruit bowl and holds it up to her ear. She says to Katie 'look! this banana is a telephone'
QUESTION: Is it true what Emma says? YES/NO/DON'T KNOW
QUESTION: Why does Emma say this?


What did Happe find?

That adults with Asperger's Syndrome did have difficulty with the experimental condition (mental state example) in comparison to matched controls, showing the adults with autism had an impaired TOM.


What did Baron-Cohen build on this?

Therefore, Baron-Cohen built on Happe's research by using an adult appropriate test to assess TOM competence in high-functioning adults with autism or AS


What is the aim?

To test the TOM of high functioning adults with autism or AS with newly devised adult appropriate test, known as the 'eyes test'



Three groups were tested:
Group 1 - Experimental
Group 2 - Control
Group 3 - Control


Group 1

Experimental - 16 people (13m & 3f)
-with functioning autism (HFA=4) or Asperger syndrome (AS=12). The P's were recruited from a variety of clinical sources such as doctors as well as an advert in the National Autistic Society mag 'communication' participants were therefore self selecting/volunteers.
*NOTE-males are 4 times more likely to have autism, therefore the gender imbalance in this group is representative


Group 2

Control - 50 (25m & 25f)
-age matched controls with no history of psychiatric disorder and presumed to be of normal intelligence. They were selected randomly from a participant list drawn from the general population of Cambridge (excluding members of the University) which was held in the university Department of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry.


Group 3

Control - 10 (8m & 2f) with Tourette syndrome (TS)
- also aged matched with groups 1 and 2 and all of normal intelligence. They were recruited from a tertiary referral centre in London in which they were attending. They were therefore self-selecting/volunteers.
*Note - Again, males are four times likely to have TS, so the gender imbalance is representative for this group.


What is Tourette Syndrome?

It is a neurological condition, which is characterised by 'tic' (sudden involuntary movements or vocalisations such as swear words). This generally appears during childhood and is often accompanied by other problems such as inattention or hyperactivity. It is similar to autism in that both are childhood psychiatric cognitive disorders believed to be associated with abnormalities in the frontal region of the brain and those with either disorder are likely to have had disrupted schooling and peer interactions. These participants were used as a control group to see if the deficit in theory of mind was the same in all neurological conditions, or if it was specific to autism.


What design was used?

The study uses a matched participants design as the group of normal adults and group of adults with TS were age matched with the group of adults with HFA/AS and all participants were considered to be normal intelligence.