How can we explain the social deficits in autism?

How can we explain the social deficits in autism?
What is Theory of Mind and how can we measure it?

1
Reading in the mind in the eye
From the instructions of the “Eyes test”:
For each set of eyes, choose and circle which word best describes
what the person in the picture is thinking or feeling. You should try to
do the task as quickly as possible but you will not be timed.
Baron-Cohen et al., 1997
You can try it out the complete test yourself, e.g. here:
http://socialintelligence.labinthewild.org/mite/
2
Reading in the mind in the eye
3
Reading in the mind in the eye
4
Reading in the mind in the eye
5
Reading in the mind in the eye
6
Autism and eyes  3 groups:
Autism/Asperger
syndrome, Tourette
syndrome (as clinical
control group) and
age
-matched healthy
controls
 Only autism and
Asperger Syndrome
group was impaired
 But no impairment for
recognizing gender
from the eye region
and for recognizing
basic emotions from
the whole face
7
Baron
-Cohen et al., 1997
“The ability to ascribe mental states, such as beliefs, desires and
intentions, to explain, predict, and justify behavior” Apperly & Butterfill, 2009
“In saying that an individual has a theory of mind, we mean that the
individual imputes mental states to himself and to others (either to
conspecifics or to other species as well). A system of inferences of
this kind is properly viewed as a theory, first, because such states
are not directly observable, and second, because the system can be
used to make predictions, specifically about the behavior of other
organisms.”
Premack & Woodruff, 1978
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6ylH-LYjOM
Theory of Mind (ToM)
8
Simulation theory of mind reading:
Mindreaders use their own psychological processes offline to
attribute similar mental states or actions to others.
Theory theory:
Mindreading is based on laws and inferences about mental states
and behavior.
From Hurley, 2008
Simulation theory vs. theory theory
9
Theory Theory:
Mindreading is based on laws and inferences about
mental states and behavior.
 Reading others’ minds from a theoretical stance
Theory theory vs. simulation theory
10
People looking into
drawers usually search for
something. They want to
find something that they
believe is in there…
Simulation Theory:
Mindreaders use their own psychological processes
offline to attribute similar mental states or actions to
others.
Theory theory vs. simulation theory
11
 Reading others’ minds by putting oneself in others’ shoes
A. Deficits in social communication and social interaction
across multiple contexts
1. Social-emotional reciprocity
abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth
conversation; reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect;
failure to initiate or respond to social interactions
2. Nonverbal communicative behaviors for social interaction
poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication;
abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in
understanding and use of gestures; lack of facial expressions
and nonverbal communication
3. Developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships
difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts;
difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends;
absence of interest in peers
Autism Spectrum Disorder
12
DSM-5 on Autism Spectrum Disorder [shortened]
B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities
C. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period
D. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social,
occupational, or other important areas of current functioning
E. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual
disability or global developmental delay
Autism Spectrum Disorder
13
DSM-5 on Autism Spectrum Disorder [shortened]
Comparison of a false belief task (Sally-Ann task) and a reality
change task (picture task)
Exercise
In what way are these tasks similar? And how do they differ?
Autism and false belief processing
14
Frith 2001
Other than a comparison group
(mean age 4 years), children with
autism (mean age 12 years) show
specific problems with the
mentalizing task (false belief
tests), but not with the other task
(false photography task).
Many symptoms of individuals
with Autism might be explained by
a deficit in mentalizing abilities
Mind-blindness hypothesis Simon
Baron-Cohen; Uta Frith
Autism and false belief processing
15
Frith 2001
Given their social communicative deficits, would individuals with
autism co-represent others’ actions?
Remember? Social Simon task (Sebanz et al., 2003)
Autism – and co-representation?
16
Sebanz et al., 2005
Autism – and co-representation?
17
Sebanz et al., 2005
High-functioning individuals with autism represent other’s actions
just as individuals from a control group
Although autism is characterized by severe social deficits, this
seems mostly related to higher-level social cognitive processes.
Low-level processes such as automatic imitation and task corepresentation
seem not different from normal behavior.
Social deficits in autism
18
Intermediate course evaluation
Please briefly write down
1. What you like about the course so far
2. What you dislike about the course so far
3. Suggestions for changes
4. Whether you would like to keep the bi-weekly peer review
format
19
This is what google image
gives you for “feedback” 
The mind-blindness hypothesis of autism
Matrix discussion
20
A Press, C., Richardson, D., & Bird, G. (2010). Intact imitation of
emotional facial actions in autism spectrum conditions.
Neuropsychologia, 48(11), 3291–3297.
B Hamilton, A. F. C., Brindley, R. M., & Frith, U. (2007). Imitation
and action understanding in autistic spectrum disorders: How
valid is the hypothesis of a deficit in the mirror neuron system?
Neuropsychologia, 45, 1859–1868.
C Welsh, T. N., Ray, M. C., Weeks, D. J., Dewey, D., & Elliott, D.
(2009). Does Joe influence Fred’s action? Not if Fred has autism
spectrum disorder. Brain Research, 1248(0), 141–148.
According to most accounts of Theory of Mind, children develop this
skill when they are between 3 and 4 years.
Standard tests include false belief tasks, e.g.
Smarties test and Sally-Ann task
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41jSdOQQpv0
[1:35 – 5:13]
However, standard false belief tasks tests are verbal, placing high
burden on younger children.
 Suggestions for new, non-verbal tasks, e.g. Kovács et al., 2010
 Theoretical possibility of a dual system: Apperly & Butterfill, 2009
Development of Theory of Mind (ToM)
21
“Where will Sally first look for her
marble?”
Before 3, children look and say she
will look for where the marble really is
 Reality bias
Around 3, children look at the correct
location but say she will look for
where the marble really is Clements &
Perner, 1995
From 4, they look at the correct
location and verbally give the correct
response
Two systems?
22
Early development (= 13 to 15
months of age)
Onishi & Baillargeon, 2005
Surian, Caldi, & Sperber, 2007
Non-human ability
Call & Tomasello, 2005
Two systems?
23
Late development (= 3 to 4
years of age)
Wellmann, Cross, & Watson, 2001
Wimmer & Perner, 1983
Cognitively demanding, even for
adults
Apperly, Samson, & Humphreys, 2009
Fast and early (inborn) vs. slow and flexible Apperly & Butterfill, 2009
Most studies investigating early mindreading abilities focus on
specific components (precursors?) of Theory of Mind.
 Understanding others’ intentions
 Expecting “rational” action
 Tracking others’ divergent beliefs
Early components of ToM
24
Early false beliefs?
Testing 7-month old infants with a non-verbal false belief task
Kovács et al., 2010
Reasoning about others’ beliefs
25
Early false beliefs?
Testing 7-month old infants with a non-verbal false belief task
Kovács et al., 2010
Reasoning about others’ beliefs
26
Early false beliefs?
Testing 7-month old infants with a non-verbal false belief task
Kovács et al., 2010
Reasoning about others’ beliefs
27
Early false beliefs?
Testing 7-month old infants with a non-verbal false belief task
Kovács et al., 2010
Reasoning about others’ beliefs
28
Adults take longer to detect the presence of the ball in the last scene
if the smurf has a mismatching belief Kovács et al., 2010
Reasoning about others’ beliefs
29
Also 7-month olds seem to take the smurf’s beliefs into account:
longer looking times in false belief condition Kovács et al., 2010
Reasoning about others’ beliefs
30
Mindreading in adults
What are the limits of mindreading in adults?
Adults are able to represent multi-level mental representations
needed in a highly complex social world. However, this comes with
costs, e.g. working memory restrictions.
31
Mindreading in adults
Peter thinks that Mary believes that Paul knows that Fred thought
there was cake in the kitchen.
32
Mindreading in adults
Different levels of complexity
Reflects recursive thinking ability: the ability to embed mental
representations inside other mental representations e.g. to hold
beliefs about beliefs about beliefs (O’Grady et al., 2015)
“Imposing Memory Task” Kinderman et al., 1998
A set of stories with subsequent questions that have to be answered
from memory.
Let’s try it out! 
33
Mindreading in adults
Sam wanted to find a Post Office so he could buy a Tax Disc for his
car. He asked Henry if he could tell him where to get one. Henry told
him that he thought there was a Post Office in Elm Street. When
Sam got to Elm Street, he found it was closed. A notice on the door
said that he had moved to new premises in Bold Street. So Sam
went to Bold Street and found the new Post Office. When he got to
the counter, he discovered that he had left his MOT certificate at
home. He realized that, without an MOT certificate, he could not get
a Tax Disc, so he went home empty-handed.
(completely irrelevant but: MOT certificate = certificate of vehicle
safety issued by Ministry of Transport)
34
From: Valle et al., 2015; originally by Kinderman et al., 1998
Mindreading in adults
Which one is correct?
a. Henry thought Sam would find the Post Office in Elm Street
b. Henry thought Sam would find the Post Office in Bold Street
35
correct
incorrect
Mindreading in adults
Mark, James, and Luke are three brothers.
Mark is playing with a ball in the bedroom while his brother James is
playing on the computer. After the game, Mark decides to go to the
kitchen to eat a snack and puts the ball in a closed box. James and
Luke see Mark put the ball in the box. While Mark is in the kitchen,
James and Luke enter the bedroom. James takes the ball to play,
puts it in the closet, and returns to the computer. At this point, Luke
takes the ball and plays with it. James goes to the bathroom.
Meanwhile, Luke hits the ball with his foot awkwardly, and the ball
drops behind a large wardrobe. Luke is unable to recover the ball,
so he climbs onto the bed and starts reading. James meets Mark in
the hallway and tells him that he put the ball in the wardrobe. After
several minutes, the two brothers enter in the bedroom. James goes
to the computer, and Luke makes an unequivocal gesture to tell
Mark that the ball is behind the wardrobe. James does not see this
gesture. Mark wants to play again with the ball.
36
From: Valle et al., 2015
Mindreading in adults
Where does Luke think that James will seek the ball? Why?
(2-order false-belief question)
Where does Luke think that James thinks that Mark will look for the
ball? Why?
(3-order false-belief question)
Where does James think that Luke thinks that Mark will look for the
ball? Why?
(3-order false-belief question)
37
In the wardrobe
In the box
In the box
Mindreading in adults
Adults’ error rate increases with more complex ToM questions.
Memory performance is not affected.
38
Kinderman et al., 1998
Implicit versus explicit mentalizing
Are humans really so bad in recursive mind-reading?
Revised version of the Imposing Memory Task using implicit story
telling (short video sequences) O’Grady et al., 2015
39
Implicit versus explicit mentalizing
“These findings run counter to the intuition that high level recursive
mindreading tasks are cognitively demanding, and counter to results
obtained in previous research that suggest that performance on
mental questions decrease markedly after level 5.” O’Grady et al., 2015
40
Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind?
In 1978, Woodruff & Premack, presented a series of experiments
with chimpanzees that they interpreted as showing that
chimpanzees understand The S’s consistent choice of the correct
photographs can be “understood the actor’s purpose”.
Woodruff & Premack, 1978
41
A very long debate followed
this original suggestion:
 What exactly do
chimpanzees represent?
 Can this be explained by
associative learning or
inborn processes?
No definite answer yet!
What is special about interaction?
“Two boys, between them, lift and carry a log which neither could
move alone. You cannot speak of either boy as carrying half the log
[. . .]. Nor can you speak of either boy as half carrying the log [. . .].
The two boys, coordinating their efforts upon the log, perform a joint
action and achieve a result which is not divisible between the
component members of this elementary group.” Woodworth, 1939, p.823
Next week: Interacting with others
42
Summary
 Autism is a developmental disorder characterized, among other
aspects, by impairments related to social interaction and
understanding others
 The mind blindness hypothesis suggests that people with autism
have a Theory of Mind deficit
 Traditionally, children are thought to develop Theory of Mind
abilities around the age of 4; recent studies using different nonverbal
methods challenge this view
43
Main references
 Apperly, I. A. & Butterfill, S. A. (2009). Do humans have two systems to track beliefs and
belief-like states? Psychological Review, 116, 953-970.
 Frith, U. (2001). Mind blindness and the brain in autism. Neuron, 32, 969-979.
 Vivanti, G., & Rogers, S. J. (2014). Autism and the mirror neuron system: insights from
learning and teaching. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,
369(1644), 20130184–20130184.
 Baron-Cohen, S., Jolliffe, T., Mortimore, C., & Robertson, M. (1997). Another Advanced Test of
Theory of Mind: Evidence from Very High Functioning Adults with Autism or Asperger
Syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38(7), 813–822.
 Kinderman, P., Dunbar, R., & Bentall, R. P. (1998). Theory-of-mind deficits and causal
attributions. BritJPsych, 89(2), 191–204.
44

find the cost of your paper