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Validity of False Belief Tasks in Blind Children

Abstract

Previous studies have reported that congenitally blind children without any additional impairment reveal a developmental delay of at least 4 years in perspective taking based on testing first-order false-belief tasks. These authors interpret this delay as a sign of autism-like behavior. However, the delay may be caused by testing blind children with false-belief tasks that require visual experience. Therefore, the present study gave alternative false-belief tasks based on tactile or auditory experience to 45 congenitally blind 4–10-year-olds and 37 sighted 3–6-year-olds. Results showed criterion performance at 80 months (6; 8 years) in blind children compared with 61 months (5; 1 years) in sighted controls. It is concluded that this 19-month (1; 7 year) difference, which is comparable with delays in other developmental areas, is a developmental delay caused by the fact of congenital blindness rather than a sign of a psychopathological disorder of autism-like behavior.

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Acknowledgments

Funding for this research was provided by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Association) Grant BR 581/12-2 to Michael Brambring. We thank Jonathan Harrow at Bielefeld for translating this article into English, Marjolein Dik and Marieke voor de Wind for carrying out the Dutch study, and Regina Krieger for collecting the data from the sighted children.

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Correspondence to Michael Brambring.

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Brambring, M., Asbrock, D. Validity of False Belief Tasks in Blind Children. J Autism Dev Disord 40, 1471–1484 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-010-1002-2

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Keywords

  • Alternative false-belief tasks
  • Blind children
  • Perspective taking
  • Autism