Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 38, Issue 8, pp 1534–1541 | Cite as

The ‘Reading the Mind in Films’ Task [Child Version]: Complex Emotion and Mental State Recognition in Children with and without Autism Spectrum Conditions

  • Ofer Golan
  • Simon Baron-Cohen
  • Yael Golan
Original Paper


Children with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) have difficulties recognizing others’ emotions. Research has mostly focused on basic emotion recognition, devoid of context. This study reports the results of a new task, assessing recognition of complex emotions and mental states in social contexts. An ASC group (n = 23) was compared to a general population control group (n = 24). Children with ASC performed lower than controls on the task. Using task scores, more than 87% of the participants were allocated to their group. This new test quantifies complex emotion and mental state recognition in life-like situations. Our findings reveal that children with ASC have residual difficulties in this aspect of empathy. The use of language-based compensatory strategies for emotion recognition is discussed.


Emotion recognition Complex emotions Empathy Social cognition Childhood Autism spectrum 



Ofer Golan was supported by the Corob Charitable Trust, the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR), The Wingate Foundation, and B’nai B’rith Scholarships. Simon Baron-Cohen was supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC), UK. We would like to thank Sullivan Entertainment International for their permission to use a screenshot from their series. We are grateful to the Wirral Autistic Society, Umbrella Autism Cambridgeshire, the Hertfordshire Autistic Resource Centre, Brookside Family Consultation Clinic, Mayfield Primary School, and Kings Hedges Primary School for their help with recruiting participants, and to Jacqueline Hill, Chris Ashwin, Sally Wheelwright, Sarah Johnson and Emma Chapman for advice and help with this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Autism Research Centre, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyBar-Ilan UniversityRamat-GanIsrael

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