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Candida C. Peterson, Virginia Slaughter, James Peterson and David Premack Children with autism can track others' beliefs in a competitive game Developmental Science 16

Version of Record online: 19 MAR 2013 | DOI: 10.1111/desc.12040

Theory of mind (ToM) development, assessed via ‘litmus’ false belief tests, is severely delayed in autism, but the standard testing procedure may underestimate these children's genuine understanding. To explore this, we developed a novel test involving competition to win a reward as the motive for tracking other players’ beliefs (the ‘Dot-Midge task’). Ninety-six children, including 23 with autism (mean age: 10.36 years), 50 typically developing 4-year-olds (mean age: 4.40) and 23 typically developing 3-year-olds (mean age: 3.59) took a standard ‘Sally-Ann’ false belief test, the Dot-Midge task (which was closely matched to the Sally-Ann task procedure) and a norm-referenced verbal ability test. Results showed dramatically better performance on Dot-Midge than Sally-Ann by children with autism.

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