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Psychology: Cognitive & Development > Theory of Mind > Flashcards

Flashcards in Theory of Mind Deck (14):

What is the theory of mind?

-it refers to the ability that each of us has to mind read or to have a personal theory of what other people know or are feeling or thinking
-each of us has a theory of mind when we have a belief about what is in someone else mind
-different methods are used to study Tom at different points in development
-the emergence of simple ToM can be seen in toddlers by means of intentional reasoning research
-A more sophisticated level of ToM can be assessed in 3-4 year olds using false belief tasks
-in older children and adults advanced ToM has been tested with the eyes task, in which participants judge complex emotions with minimal information about facial expression


What is autism?

-The more correct name is called the autism spectrum, disorder (ASD)
-it is an umbrella term for a wide range of symptoms
-all disorders on the spectrum share impairments to three main areas: empathy, social communication and social imagination


What is intentional reasoning in toddlers?

-in one study Meltzoff provided convincing evidence to show that toddlers have an understanding of adult intentions when carrying out simple actions
-children of 18 months observed adults place beads into a jar
-in the experimental condition the adults appeared to struggle with this and dropped the beads
-in the control condition the adults placed the beads successfully in the jar
-in both conditions the toddlers placed the beads into a jar; they dropped no more beads in the experimental condition
-this suggests they were imitating what the adults intended to do which


What is false belief tasks?

-false belief tasks were developed in order to test whether children can understand that people can believe something that is not true
-the first was developed by Simmer and Lerner in which they told 3-4 year olds a story in which Maxi left his chocolate in a blue cupboard in the kitchen and then went to the playground
-later, Maxis mother used some of the chocolate in her cooking and placed the chocolate in the green cupboard -children were asked where Maxi would look for his chocolate when he comes back from the playground -most three year olds incorrectly said that he would look in the green cupboard because Maxi doesn't know his mother because Maxi doesn't know his mother moved it -however most 4 year olds correctly identified the blue cupboard which suggests that ToM undergoes a shift and becomes more advanced at around four years


What is the Sally-Anne study?

-Baron-Cohen et al used a similar false belief task called the Sally-Anne ask
-children were told a story involving two dolls, Sally and Anne
-Sally places a marble in her basket, but when Sally is not looking Anne moves the marble to her box
-the task is to work out where Sally will look for her marble
-understanding that Sally does not know that Anne has moved the marble requires an understanding of Sally's false belief about where it is
-Cohen and his colleagues have explored the links between ToM deficits and ASD using false belief tasks
-much of the research has made use of the Sally-Anne task e.g. the following study by Cohen et al


What was the procedure of the Sally-Anne study?

-20 high-functioning children diagnosed as being ASD and control groups of 14 children with Down's syndrome and 27 without a diagnosis were individually administered the Slyly-Anne test


What were the findings of the Sally-Anne study?

-85% of children in the control groups correctly identified where Sally would look for her marble yet, only four of the children in the ASD group were able to answer this
-this dramatic difference demonstrated that ASD involved ToM deficit
-Cohen and his colleagues suggested that deficits in ToM might in fact be a complete explanation for ASD


What is testing in older children and adults?

-Asperger syndrome is a type of ASD characterised by problems with empathy, social communication and imagination but normal language development
-studies of older children and adults with AS, showed that this group succeeded easily on false belief tasks
-this was a blow to the idea that ASD can be explained by ToM deficits
-however, Cohen and colleagues developed a more challenging task to assess ToM in adolescents and adults
-the eyes task involves reading complex emotions in pictures of faces just showing a small area around the eyes
-Cohen et all found that adults with AS and those with a diagnosis of high functioning ASD struggled with the eyes task which supports the idea that ToM deficits might be the cause of ASD


What are the evaluation points of theory of mind?

-low validity of false belief tasks as they require memory not only Tom, if ASD children were given visual aids they could perspective take, children that perform poorly on ToM tasks could still
-hard to distinguish ToM from perspective-taking so ToM tasks could just be measuring perspective taking
-partial explanation for ASD, ToM does not explain cognitive strengths of ASD like superior visual attention
-no clear understanding of how ToM develops as it could be innate and develop with age or be developed through social interactions


How is low validity of false belief tasks a weakness of the theory of mind?

-the mainstay of ToM research has been the false belief task
-hundreds of studies have made use of the Sally-Anne task and variations on it yet some psychologists have been sharply critical of the false belief approach
-Bloom and German suggest two reasons why the false belief tasks lack validity
-first success on a false belief task requires other cognitive abilities apart from ToM e.g. memory
-although the Sally-Anne story is slightly shorter and simpler than the original Maxi story, it is still quite a bit for a 3-year old to remember
-some studies have given ASD children visual aids to help them remember the false belief stories and have found that younger ASD children visual aids to help them remember the false belief stories and have fond that younger ASD children quite often succeed
-Bloom and German's second criticism is that a child can have a well-developed ToM and still struggle with false belief tasks
-thus children who cannot perform well on false belief tasks still enjoy pretend-play which requires a ToM
-both of there criticisms challenge the validity of false belief tasks
-this is a huge problem for ToM research because it has been dominated by false belief research


How is the fact that its hard to distinguish Tom from perspective-taking?

-Selman's work on perspective-taking
-this is the cognitive ability to view social situations from another person's point of view
-ToM, the ability to understand mental states in others and perspective-taking appear to be closely related cognitive abilities
-the problem is that many of the methods tat have been used to study ToM could simply be measures of perspective-taking e.g. responses to the Sally-Anne task could be explained in terms of children's ability to take Sally's perspective
-similarly, although performance on ToM tasks distinguishes between children on the autistic spectrum and others, the same is true of perspective-taking tasks
-the possibility that much of the research into ToM may simply be measuring perspective-taking is a further challenge to the validity of ToM research


How is the fact that the theory of mind is a partial explanation for ASD a weakness?

-one of the mayor app.actions of ToM research is in understanding ASD
-it is widely agreed that people on the autistic spectrum have more difficulty than others on age-appropriate ToM tests
-ToM research has been extremely useful in helping us. Understand the differing experiences of those on the autistic spectrum and those who are neurotypical
-what is more controversial is the idea that ASD is the direct result of ToM deficits as suggested by Cohen
-Tager-Flusberg suggests that more recent research has questioned the assumption that ToM problems are specific to ASD and that all those on the autistic spectrum suffer ToM problems
-ASD and ToM may therefore not be as closely linked as was once believed
-ASD also has many other characteristics including cognitive strengths such as superior visual attention and highly systematic reasoning
-ToM cannot easily explain these characteristics


What does neurotypical mean?

-the term used by people on the autistic spectrum to describe the rest of the population


how is the fact that we have no clear understanding of how ToM develops a weakness?

-there are a number of theories around to account for how we develop out ToM
-Perner et al adopt a Piagetian approach and see ToM as simply developing in line with all cognitive abilities i.e. it is based on an intimate ability which matures with age and experience
-Astington takes a more vygotskian line and suggests that we internalise out ToM during early interactions with adults
-there is no clear evidence to suggest which explanation is correct