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Assessing False-Belief Understanding in Children with Autism Using a Computer Application: A Pilot Study.

Journal article
Authors Emilia Carlsson
Carmela Miniscalco
Christopher Gillberg
Jakob Åsberg Johnels
Published in Journal of psycholinguistic research
Volume 47
Issue 5
Pages 1085-1099
ISSN 1573-6555
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Health and Rehabilitation
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre
Pages 1085-1099
Language en
Keywords Autism spectrum disorders; Computer application; False-belief understanding; School-age children; Theory of mind
Subject categories Child and adolescent psychiatry, Logopedics and phoniatrics


We have developed a False-Belief (FB) understanding task for use on a computer tablet, trying to assess FB understanding in a less social way. It is based on classical FB protocols, and additionally includes a manipulation of language in an attempt to explore the facilitating effect of linguistic support during FB processing. Specifically, the FB task was presented in three auditory conditions: narrative, silent, and interference. The task was assumed to shed new light on the FB difficulties often observed in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Sixty-eight children with ASD (M = 7.5 years) and an age matched comparison group with 98 typically developing (TD) children were assessed with the FB task. The children with ASD did not perform above chance level in any condition, and significant differences in success rates were found between the groups in two conditions (silent and narrative), with TD children performing better. We discuss implications, limitations, and further developments.

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