Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 953–965 | Cite as

Approximating Implicit and Explicit Mentalizing with Two Naturalistic Video-Based Tasks in Typical Development and Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Gabriela Rosenblau
  • Dorit Kliemann
  • Hauke R. Heekeren
  • Isabel Dziobek
Original Paper


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been proposed to show greater impairments in implicit than explicit mentalizing. To test this proposition, we developed two comparable naturalistic tasks for a performance-based approximation of implicit and explicit mentalizing in 28 individuals with ASD and 23 matched typically developed (TD) participants. Although both tasks were sensitive to the social impairments of individuals with ASD, implicit mentalizing was not more dysfunctional than explicit mentalizing. In TD participants, performance on the tasks did not correlate with each other, whereas in individuals with ASD they were highly correlated. These findings suggest that implicit and explicit mentalizing processes are separable in typical development. In contrast, in individuals with ASD implicit and explicit mentalizing processes are similarly impaired and closely linked suggesting a lack of developmental specification of these processes in ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder Cognition Mentalizing Behavioral assessment Implicit 



We thank Joerg Schulze, member of the Computer and Media Service team (CMS) at the Humboldt University, for his advice and support with the production and postproduction of the film stimuli and the actors. We also thank our student research assistants for their help with the stimulus production and data acquisition. In addition, we would like especially our participants on the autism spectrum for their participation in the study. This work was supported by a Grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG; EXC 302).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10803_2014_2249_MOESM1_ESM.doc (32 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 32 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriela Rosenblau
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dorit Kliemann
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  • Hauke R. Heekeren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Isabel Dziobek
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.Cluster of Excellence ‘Languages of Emotion’Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Education and PsychologyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Center for Translational Developmental Neuroscience, Yale Child Study CenterYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.McGovern Institute for Brain Research at Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  5. 5.Department of NeurologyMassachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical SchoolCharlestownUSA
  6. 6.Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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