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Introducing MASC: A Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition

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Abstract

In the present study we introduce a sensitive video-based test for the evaluation of subtle mindreading difficulties: the Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition (MASC). This new mindreading tool involves watching a short film and answering questions referring to the actors’ mental states. A group of adults with Asperger syndrome (n = 19) and well-matched control subjects (n = 20) were administered the MASC and three other mindreading tools as part of a broader neuropsychological testing session. Compared to control subjects, Asperger individuals exhibited marked and selective difficulties in social cognition. A Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) analysis for the mindreading tests identified the MASC as discriminating the diagnostic groups most accurately. Issues pertaining to the multidimensionality of the social cognition construct are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded by a grant from the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR). It was completed partially toward the first author’s Ph.D. dissertation at the University Bielefeld, which was supported with a training grant by the Cusanuswerk, Germany. The development of the MASC was, in part, supported by the Max-Planck-Institute for Neurological Research and Köln Fortune, Cologne, Germany. We are grateful to the participants and their families for volunteering for the study and we thank the great number of people who donated their time and dedication to the project. Our special thanks goes to Jonathan Bepler.

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Correspondence to Isabel Dziobek.

Appendices

Appendix

Example scene and scoring criteria:

Scene 20:

Picture 1
figure 2

Cliff is the first one to arrive at Sandra’s house for the dinner party. He and Sandra seem to enjoy themselves when Cliff is telling about his vacation in Sweden (printed with permission)

Picture 2
figure 3

When Michael arrives, he dominates the conversation, directing his speech to Sandra alone (printed with permission)

Picture 3
figure 4

Slightly annoyed by Michael’s bragging story, Sandra shortly looks in Cliff’s direction and then asks Michael: “Tell me, have you ever been to Sweden?” (printed with permission)

Question: Why is Sandra asking this?

Examples for correct answers: To change to the topic that Cliff talked about before so that he gets involved again; to redirect the conversation to Cliff; to integrate Cliff; to reconnect with Cliff.

Examples for incorrect answers: To hear if Michael also has something interesting to say about Sweden; to see which of the two guys has a cooler story to tell; to see if Michael can corroborate Cliff’s story; she liked the Sweden topic better than the current one; to compare the two; to loosen Michael up, the Sweden topic also worked for Cliff.

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Dziobek, I., Fleck, S., Kalbe, E. et al. Introducing MASC: A Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition. J Autism Dev Disord 36, 623–636 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-006-0107-0

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