Early childhood autism and the question of egocentrism

  • R. Peter Hobson


An individual's social competence is often considered in terms of his role-taking abilities. In the light of studies by Piaget, it has been supposed that a child's developing capacity to appreciate the viewpoints of others in a social context is reflected in his ability to recognize points of view in a visuospatial setting. If this is valid, then visuospatial role-taking tasks may afford a measure of some relatively “cognitive” component of the capacity to engage in social behavior. Tasks in which subjects were required to make judgments about different and yet related views of a three-dimensional scene or object, together with tests of operational thinking, were presented to normal children and to subjects with the diagnosis of infantile autism. The results indicate that autistic children are no more impaired in their recognition of visuospatial perspectives than are normal children of comparable intellectual level in tests of operational thinking. A further, more limited study yielded suggestive evidence that over this series of tasks, autistic children perform as well as subjects with Down's syndrome who have a similar verbal mental age. These findings render it improbable that autistic children are especially “egocentric” in their appreciation of visuospatial perspectives.


Early Childhood Social Context Social Behavior School Psychology Social Competence 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Peter Hobson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of PsychiatryLondon
  2. 2.MRC Developmental Psychology ProjectLondon

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