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Language and Theory of Mind in Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Relationship Between Complement Syntax and False Belief Task Performance

  • Sophie E. Lind
  • Dermot M. Bowler
Original Paper

Abstract

This study aimed to test the hypothesis that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use their knowledge of complement syntax as a means of “hacking out” solutions to false belief tasks, despite lacking a representational theory of mind (ToM). Participants completed a “memory for complements” task, a measure of receptive vocabulary, and traditional location change and unexpected contents false belief tasks. Consistent with predictions, the correlation between complement syntax score and location change task performance was significantly stronger within the ASD group than within the comparison group. However, contrary to predictions, complement syntax score was not significantly correlated with unexpected contents task performance within either group. Possible explanations for this pattern of results are considered.

Keywords

Autism spectrum disorder Complement syntax False belief Language Theory of mind 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Firstly, we would like to acknowledge Jill de Villiers who kindly provided the experimental materials for the complement syntax task. This research was supported by a City University Ph.D. Studentship awarded to the first author. This manuscript was prepared during a Postdoctoral Fellowship awarded to the first author by autism speaks. We would like to thank the following schools for their participation in this research: Bensham Manor, Brent Knoll, Hillingdon Manor, Kilmorie, Linden Bridge, Southmead, Pendragon, St. Winifred’s, The Park, and West Wimbledon. We are extremely grateful to Daniel Heussen, James Hampton and Silvio Aldrovandi for their advice on data analysis, and to David Williams and Sebastian Gaigg for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Finally, we wish to thank the anonymous reviewers of this manuscript for their helpful comments and Tony Charman for his editorial assistance.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCity UniversityLondonUK

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