Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 47, Issue 9, pp 2743–2756 | Cite as

Simple Mindreading Abilities Predict Complex Theory of Mind: Developmental Delay in Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Maria Chiara Pino
  • Monica Mazza
  • Melania Mariano
  • Sara Peretti
  • Dagmara Dimitriou
  • Francesco Masedu
  • Marco Valenti
  • Fabia Franco
Original Paper


Theory of mind (ToM) is impaired in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The aims of this study were to: (i) examine the developmental trajectories of ToM abilities in two different mentalizing tasks in children with ASD compared to TD children; and (ii) to assess if a ToM simple test known as eyes-test could predict performance on the more advanced ToM task, i.e. comic strip test. Based on a sample of 37 children with ASD and 55 TD children, our results revealed slower development at varying rates in all ToM measures in children with ASD, with delayed onset compared to TD children. These results could stimulate new treatments for social abilities, which would lessen the social deficit in ASD.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) Developmental trajectories approach Eyes task Comic strip test (CST) Theory of mind (ToM) 


Author Contributions

MCP, MM, FF and MV designed research; MM and SP collected data; MCP, DD and FM analyzed the data; All authors have contributed to write the paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Chiara Pino
    • 1
  • Monica Mazza
    • 1
  • Melania Mariano
    • 1
  • Sara Peretti
    • 1
  • Dagmara Dimitriou
    • 2
  • Francesco Masedu
    • 4
  • Marco Valenti
    • 4
    • 5
  • Fabia Franco
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Applied Clinical Sciences and BiotechnologyUniversity of L’AquilaL’aquilaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Human DevelopmentUCL-Institute of EducationLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of Psychology, School of Science and TechnologyMiddlesex UniversityLondonUK
  4. 4.Department of Applied Clinical Sciences and Biotechnology, Section of Clinical Epidemiology and Environmental MedicineUniversity of L’AquilaL’aquilaItaly
  5. 5.Regional Centre for AutismAbruzzo Region Health SystemL’aquilaItaly

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