Baron Cohen Summary

Summary sheet for Baron-Cohen et al Theory of the Mind Study

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  • Created on: 06-05-10 21:00
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Name of study: Autism
Author(s): Baron-Cohen et al
Approach: Cognitive Psychology
Background information (what theories/issues of previous research is the study based on?)
One explanation for autism is that it is caused by a core cognitive deficit ­ an impaired theory of mind which may
explain the social, communicative and imaginative abnormalities that are characteristic of autism.
However some research suggests that adults with Asperger Syndrome or high functioning autistics are actually
able to pass Theory of mind tests.
This may however be due to the fact that the tests were designed for 6 year olds and therefore although the
adults may have correctly answered these they may still be functioning at a lower level than is expected of an adult.
Sally-Anne test
Strange Stories Task
What were the aims and hypotheses of this study?
To test the Theory of Mind of high functioning adults with autism or Aspergers syndrome with a newly devised adult
appropriate test known as the Eyes Test.
Females will do better than males on the Theory of Mind Task.
What were the IV+DV / IV's? (where appropriate e.g. in experimental research only)
Independent Variable: the type of participant: Autistic, Tourettes or "normal"
Dependent Variable: the performance on the advanced ToM test ­ Eyes Task.
What research method was used?
Quasi ­ the IV was naturally occurring.
List the advantages and disadvantages of the method used?
Advantages Disadvantages
Allows us to study events that would be unethical or Difficult to state the cause and effect relationship, unless
impossible to conduct using any other method. high levels of controls are used (this is not possible in
naturally occurring behaviour).
Allows us to study "real" behaviour ­ high in ecological Participants may be aware they're being studied and this
validity. may lead to potential demand characteristics.

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Describe the sample and how it was gathered:
Autistic/Asperger's Syndrome ­ (group 1) 13 males, 3 females.
"Normal" ­ (group 2) ­ age matched controls, no history of psychiatric disorders, presumed to be of normal intelligence. 25
males, 25 females.
Tourette Syndrome ­ (group 3) ­ normal intelligence. 8 males, 2 females.
Group 1 were recruited via an advert in the National Autistic Society Magazine and via doctors.…read more

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Maximum score: 25.
Basic Emotion Recognition Task
This involved judging faces on 6 basic emotions:
This was used to assess whether any deficits were due to a lack of basic emotion recognition.
List the different conditions: (if any were used)
Group 1 ­ Autistic/Asperger's
Group 2 ­ "normal"
Group 3 ­ Touretts
What controls were used by the researcher?
The Control tasks ­ to check whether difficulties with the Eyes Task might be due to other factors.…read more

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Mean Range Correct
score gender
Autism /AS 16.3 13-23 24.1
Normal 20.3 16-25 23.3
Tourette 20.4 16-25 23.7
The results suggest that the autistic ps found the task most difficult and therefore got more of the eyes task q wrong than
the other 2 groups.
What kind of data was gathered? (qualitative/quantitative)
Quantitative Data was gathered.
Scores for each of the tests for each of the 3 groups.…read more

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A weakness is that it is low in ecological validity. The study was conducted in a lab where participants wouldn't be normally
asked to identify emotions from viewing photos of people's eyes. This is a disadvantage because it cannot be generealised
beyond the lab to real life situations.
Ecological validity
The Eyes Task is more simplistic than real life situations. In a real life situation they'd see the real faces of people, not just
eyes. They may also hear the voice.…read more

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All tourettes from trial them. however they
voice. done under lab people. to trial. won't do as well as the
conditions. "normal" or Tourettes.
The sample of A selection of 20 people The findings People who There will be more results
participants. This is should be gathered.…read more


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