Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 155–176 | Cite as

I, you, me, and autism: An experimental study

  • Anthony Lee
  • R. Peter Hobson
  • Shulamuth Chiat


The nature of autistic individuals' abnormalities in the use of personal pronouns has been a topic of considerable speculation but little systematic investigation. We tested groups of CA- and verbal MA-matched autistic and nonautistic mentally retarded children and young adults on a series of tasks that involved the comprehension and use of the personal pronouns “I,” “you,” and “me.” All subjects were able to comprehend these pronouns within the test situations, and there were few instances of pronoun reversal. However, autistic subjects were significantly less likely to employ the pronoun “me” in a visual perspective-taking task (when instead they tended to say: ‘I can see the ...’), and lower ability subjects were more likely to use their own proper names rather than personal pronouns in certain photograph-naming tasks. There were also circumstances in which autistic subjects were less likely than controls to employ the pronoun “you” to refer to the experimenter. A high proportion of these autistic subjects were reported to have current difficulties with personal pronouns in their everyday life, and we discuss some alternative interpretations of the results.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony Lee
    • 1
  • R. Peter Hobson
    • 1
  • Shulamuth Chiat
    • 2
  1. 1.Tavistock Clinic and University CollegeLondon
  2. 2.City UniversityLondon

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