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A Theory of Mind (To M) can be defined as the way in which children aged 3-to-4 years begin to develop a theory about their own and other people’s mental states, which include beliefs, intentions, knowledge and desires (Baron-Cohen, 1995).
The following essay will explore research that has investigated children with ASD and the question of whether they are able to develop a To M is supported or refuted.
The methodology used to establish whether a To M has developed during early childhood is known as a false belief task (FBT).
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Wimmer and Perner (1983) developed the classic FBT, the unexpected transfer task, in which children are asked to infer the beliefs of Maxi regarding his chocolate bar.
Maxi (a doll or puppet) puts his chocolate in one cupboard and then goes out of the room.
Earlier ability, for example, language development, has been considered an important factor (Fisch, 2013) and those children with older siblings and children who participate in fantasy play (Wellman, 2014). Theory of Mind (To M) and children with autism [Internet]. [Accessed 7 September 2019]; Available from: https://
The American Psychiatric Association, in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition defines ASD as a condition where there are ‘persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction’ this involves impairment in verbal and non-verbal communication together with repetitive and stereotypical patterns of behaviours and interests (DSM-V, APA, 2013, p.50).