Sunday, August 18, 2019
Argument that Autism is Characterized by the Lack of Theory of Mind Ess
Autism is a rare developmental disorder that affects approximately four in every ten thousand children (Baron-Cohen, Leslie & Frith, 1985). Employing a clinical perspective, Kanner (1943) (as cited in Sachs, 1995) was the first to provide a description on the disorder of autism. However, in the 1970s, Wing (1970) (as cited in Sachs, 1995) applied a cognitive perspective in describing the mental structure of autism. This essay will therefore argue that autism is characterized by the lack of theory of mind (Premack & Woodruff, 1978, as cited in Baron-Cohen et al., 1985), which is a cognitive mechanism. It will further outline empirical evidence derived from the review of two studies, collectively known as false belief tasks. The Sally-Anne task and the Smarties task, in particular, will be discussed and interpreted in support with the arguing thesis. There is no true causal definition of autism at a biological level, however, autism has been recognised to be a developmental disability affecting cognitive processing (Frith, 1997). The key behavioural deficits that characterises autism are, the inability to interact in social situations, impairments with comprehending verbal and non-verbal communication and the lack of understanding pretend and imaginative play (Wing, 1970, as cited in Sachs, 1995). Other behavioural characteristics contributing to the diagnosis of autism are, engagement in repetitive automatic movements and activities, preference to be alone, displays of self-destruction and aggressive behaviour, sensitivity to external stimuli, attacks of anxiety, and some display savant abilities (Sachs, 1995; Frith, 1997). Baron-Cohen et al. (1985) applied Wimmer and PernerÃ¢â¬â¢s (1983) puppet play paradigm to test the hypothesis that autistic children are unable to attribute beliefs to others and are incapable of representing mental states. The participants comprised of 20 autistic children, 14 children with Down syndrome, and 27 normal preschool children. The procedure for this false belief task included setting up two doll protagonists, Sally and Anne. Initially, a naming question was asked to ensure participants could distinguish between the dolls. Sally then placed a marble in her basket. Sally exited the scene, and Anne takes the marble from SallyÃ¢â¬â¢s basket and placed it in her box. Sally later returned, and the test question asked by the experimenter... ... results, it is shown that four-year-old normal children understood the concept that if a person like them, has not been exposed to the situation yet, they will give the obvious answer like them. However, autistic children, based on the fact that they lack the ability to represent mental states of others, and therefore not pose a theory of mind (Premack & Woodruff, 1978, as cited in Baron-Cohen et al., 1985) would assume that everyone else knows what they now know. The result of this study hence supports the thesis argued in this essay. Possessing a theory of mind is fundamental for social interaction with others. For those who do not have this cognitive mechanism, it is merely impossible for them to understand other peopleÃ¢â¬â¢s beliefs, wants and desires. It has been shown that autism is characterised by the lack of this cognitive mechanism, theory of mind. In addition, research studies have supported this theory, that individuals with autism lack ability to comprehend otherÃ¢â¬â¢s beliefs from their own. Future research should aim at applying a clinical perspective to help autistic individuals overcome this lack of theory of mind in order for social interaction to be less complex.