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Publication Detail
Mentalising and conversation-following in autism.
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
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  • Authors:
    Wu H-C, Biondo F, O'Mahony C, White S, Thiebaut F, Rees G, Burgess PW
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  • Keywords:
    autism, conversation, heterogeneity, mentalising, social interaction
Some people with autism spectrum disorders have been observed to experience difficulties with making correct inferences in conversations in social situations. However, the nature and origin of their problem is rarely investigated. This study used manipulations of video stimuli to investigate two questions. The first question was whether it is the number of people involved in social situations, that is, the source of problems in following conversations, or whether it is the increased mentalising demands required to comprehend interactions between several people. The second question asked was whether the nature and pattern of the errors that autism spectrum disorder participants show are the same as typically developing people make when they make an error. In total, 43 typically developed adults and 30 adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder were studied. We found that it was the amount of mentalising required, rather than the number of people involved, which caused problems for people with autism spectrum disorder in following conversations. Furthermore, the autism spectrum disorder participants showed a more heterogeneous pattern of errors, showing less agreement among themselves than the typically developed group as to which test items were hardest. So, fully understanding the observed behaviour consequent upon weakness in mentalising ability in people with autism spectrum disorders requires consideration of factors other than mentalising.
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