We use a new model of metarepresentational development to predict a cognitive deficit which could explain a crucial component of the social impairment in childhood autism. One of the manifestations of a basic metarepresentational capacity is a ‘ theory of mind ’. We have reason to believe that autistic children lack such a ‘ theory ’. If this were so, then they would be unable to impute beliefs to others and to predict their behaviour. This hypothesis was tested using Wimmer (...) and Perner’s puppet play paradigm. Normal children and those with Down’s syndrome were used as controls for a group of autistic children. Even though the mental age of the autistic children was higher than that of the controls, they alone failed to impute beliefs to others. Thus the dysfunction we have postulated and demonstrated is independent of mental retardation and specific to autism. (shrink)
Since its inception the ‘mindblindness’ theory of autism has greatly furthered our understanding of the core social-communication impairments in autism spectrum conditions . However, one of the more subtle issues within the theory that needs to be elaborated is the role of the ‘self’. In this article, we expand on mindblindness in ASC by addressing topics related to the self and its central role in the social world and then review recent research in ASC that has yielded important insights by (...) contrasting processes relating to both self and other. We suggest that new discoveries lie ahead in understanding how self and other are interrelated and/or distinct, and how understanding atypical self-referential and social-cognitive mechanisms may lead to novel ideas as to how to facilitate social-communicative abilities in ASC. (shrink)
Functionalism offers an account of the relations that hold between behavioural functions, information and neural processing, and conscious experience from which one can draw two inferences: for any discriminable difference between qualia there must be an equivalent discriminable difference in function; and for any discriminable functional difference within a behavioural domain associated with qualia, there must be a discriminable difference between qualia. The phenomenon of coloured hearing synaesthesia appears to contradict the second of these inferences. We report data showing that (...) this form of synaesthesia is genuine and probably results from an aberrant projection from cortical language areas to a region specialized for the perception of colour. Since functionalism purports to be a general account of consciousness, one such negative instance, if it can be further sustained empirically, is sufficient to invalidate it. (shrink)
A total of 378 mathematics undergraduates (selected for being strong at “systemizing”) and 414 students in other (control) disciplines at Cambridge University were surveyed with two questions: (1) Do you have a diagnosed autism spectrum condition? (2) How many relatives in your immediate family have a diagnosed autism spectrum condition? Results showed seven cases of autism in the math group (or 1.85%) vs one case of autism in the control group (or 0.24%), a ninefold difference that is significant. Controlling for (...) sex and general population sampling, this represents a three- to sevenfold increase for autism spectrum conditions among the mathematicians. There were 7 of 1,405 (or 0.5%) cases of autism in the immediate families of the math group vs 2 of 1,669 (or 0.1%) cases in the immediate families of the control group, which again is a significant difference. These results confirm a link between autism and systemizing, and they suggest this link is genetic given the association between autism and first-degree relatives of mathematicians. (shrink)
This book comprises 26 exciting chapters by internationally renowned scholars, addressing the central psychological proces separating humans from other animals: the ability to imagine the thoughts and feelings of othersm and to reflect on the contents of our own minds - a "theory of mind" (ToM).
Most scientists and theorists concerned with the problem of consciousness focus on our consciousness of the physical world (our sensations, feelings, and awareness). In this paper I consider our consciousness of the mental world (our thoughts about thoughts, intentions, wishes, and emotions).The argument is made that these are two distinct forms of consciousness, the evidence for this deriving from studies of autism. Autism is a severe childhood psychiatric condition in which individuals may be conscious of the physical world but not (...) of the mental world. Relevant experimental evidence is described, including some recent neuroimaging studies pointing towards the neural basis of our consciousness of the mental. (shrink)
Extreme conditions like savantism, autism or synaesthesia, which have a neurological 2AH, UK basis, challenge the idea that other minds are similar to our own. In this paper we report a single case study of a man in whom all three of these conditions co-occur. We suggest, on the basis of this single case, that when savantism and synaesthesia co- occur, it is worthwhile testing for an undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). This is because savantism has an established association with (...) ASC, and the combination of ASC with synaesthesia may increase the likelihood of savantism. The implications of these conditions for philosophy of mind are introduced. (shrink)
Howe et al. suggest that most talents can be explained in terms of practice and other environmental effects, and only exceptionally by innate factors. This commentary provides an illustration of one such exception: performance on the Embedded Figures Test by people with autism and their relatives.
Cognitive developmentalists have had a long-standing interest in neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism. This is not only out of a desire to understand the causes of such atypical development, in order to advance medical science and develop interventions. It is also because studying the processes that cause atypicality can sometimes throw light on typical development. It is this two-way influence that characterises the field of developmental psychopathology. In this chapter, we focus on autism. We bring out this interaction between what (...) we now understand about autistic cognition, and how this has helped us understand ‘normality’. (shrink)
We begin this chapter with a review of the history of synaesthesia and a comparison of what we consider to be either genuine or inauthentic manifestations of the phenomenon. Next, we describe the creation and development of synaesthetic consistency tests and explore reasons why assessing consistency became the most widely used method of confirming the genuineness of synaesthesia. We then consider methodologies that demonstrate synaesthesia's authenticity by capitalizing on properties other than consistency. Finally, we discuss how together, consistency tests and (...) other methodologies are helping researchers determine prevalence and elucidate the mechanisms of synaesthesia. (shrink)
The shared circuits model (SCM) is a bold attempt to explain how humans make sense of action, at different levels. In this commentary we single out five concerns: (1) the lack of a developmental account, (2) the absence of double-dissociation evidence, (3) the neglect of joint attention and joint action, (4) the inability to explain discrete emotion perception, and (5) the lack of predictive power or testability of the model. We conclude that Hurley's model requires further work before it could (...) be seen as an improvement over earlier models. (shrink)