Psychology AS Cognitive Studies: Baron-Cohen

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  • Created by: Holly
  • Created on: 30-05-13 19:11


  • 'Theory of mind' is the ability to infer, in other people, a range of mental states.
  • Bahren-Cohen belives that autistic individuals lack 'theory of mind'
  • Characteristics of Autism include difficulty with social relationships, communication, imagination and learning. Aswell as obsessive interests, odd mannerisms, repetitive behaviour and resistance to change.
  • The Sally Ann Test can test the existance of theory of mind in children.
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  • To determine whether Autism is caused by a lack of theory of mind, and to create a better test of theory of mind.
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Procedure, Method and Sample

  • Three groups of PPs:
  • Group 1 - 16 people with high functioning autism of normal intelligence. 13 men and 3 women. Recruited using an advert in the National Autistic Society magazine and through doctors.
  • Group 2 - 50 aged matched controls with no history of psychiatric disorders and presumed to be of normal intelligence. 25 men, 25 women.
  • Group 3 - 10 adults with Tourettes, and were age matched. 8 men, 2 women. Normal intelligence. (Tourettes was used due to similarites between the two disorders. Developmental, disrupt normal schooling/peer relations, genetic basis and associated with the frontal region of the brain)
  • All groups could pass second order ToM tasks
  • First, the PPs completed the eyes task. This comprises of photographs of the eye region of 25 different faces (M+F). The pps were taken from magazines and were the same size, showed the same area of the face and were black and white. Each pic was shown for 3 seconds, and pps had to choose between two mental state terms which could be basic or complex. The two terms were opposites of each other. The decision over what was 'correct' was made by a panel of four judges (M+F) and confirmed by an independant panel of eight.
  • Secondly, the Group 1 & 3 PPs completed the Strange Stories Task which validated the results of the Eyes task. (Concurrent validity)
  • Lastly the PPs completed control tasks to exclude extraneous variables affecting the performance on the eyes task. These were gender recognition during the eyes test, and the Basic emotion recognition task. The BERT was where PPs were asked to judge photos of whole faces which displayed six basic emotions.
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Quasi Experiment

  • Baron-cohen is a quasi experiment because the researcher cannot manipulate whether the participant has Autism or not.
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Dependent Variables

  • Mean scores for each group of participants on the eyes test
  • Errors on the strange stories task
  • Performance on control tasks
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Independent variables

Whether the participants 

  • Has high functioning Autism
  • Has Tourettes
  • Has no history of psychiatric disorders.
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On the eyes task:

  • Those with Autism had a mean score of 16.3 (Range 13-23) (Lowest)
  • The normal group had a mean score of 20.3 (Range 16-25)
  • The Tourettes group had a mean score of 20.4 (Range 16-25) (Highest)

It was calculated that if a PP had simply given random answers, they would score 15. There was a ceiling affect as some PPs scored maximum marks. 

On the Strange Stories Task the Austistic group were significantly impaired.

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  • Results seem to provide evidence of ToM deficits in adults with Autism, although the validity of the Eyes Test is questionable.
  • Only shows the eyes
  • Individual differences
  • Complex words
  • Gender differences
  • Adults with Autism were impaired on the eye test despite normal intelligence and not due to psychiatric disability as Tourettes PPs performed unimpaired.
  • Within the normal population females performed better than males.
  • No link between ToM and frontal areas of the brain.
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  • Studying on the Mentally impaired, is their consent valid?
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