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Publication Detail
Can autistic children predict behavior by social stereotypes?
Abstract
Explaining and predicting behavior involves understanding others in terms of their mental states ? the so-called Theory of Mind (ToM). It also involves the capacity to understand others in terms of culturally transmitted information about group membership, for example, which social groups exist in one?s culture and which stereotypes adhere to these groups. This capacity typically emerges between 3 and 5 years of age, just like ToM understanding [1,2]. Are the cognitive capacities underlying ToM and stereotypes the same or do they provide independent means of understanding and predicting the actions of others? Children with autism have a profound inability to engage in everyday social interaction, as well as impairments in verbal and nonverbal communication, which have been attributed to a severe delay in ToM development. If the use of stereotypes and mental states were part and parcel of the same underlying cognitive process, then autistic children should have similar difficulties with both. We report here that 8-year-old autistic children with a mental age of 7, who fail ToM tasks, nevertheless know and use gender and race stereotypes just like normal children. This provides a powerful argument for the assumption of distinct processes in social reasoning(see Supplemental data).
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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
Author
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
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