A Theory of Mind (TOM) and People with Learning Disabilities: The Effects of a Training Package

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Abstract

Sixteen adults from a local day centre were assessed using a first-order representation of false-belief task (Sally-Ann experiment) for their ‘theory of mind’ abilities (the ability to correctly reason about another's mental state). It was found that only 12.5% of participants could perform this task correctly. The study then went on to establish whether this ability could be trained, retrained and/or transferred. The results showed a significant improvement in participants' performance through training, this improvement was maintained over time and participants appeared to transfer this ability to a similar task. It was concluded that this research puts further doubt on an absence/impaired theory of mind being unique to autism. Implications were discussed in terms of social interaction and people with intellectual disabilities.

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