Most examples of representations of autistic individuals in the media focus on autistic savants .
These are individuals who have an amazing ability. They will show an extraordinary talent in a particular area. Examples of savant talents include expert mathematical calculations, playing Beethoven on the piano after hearing the song for the first time and with no prior lessons, drawing a detailed map of the streets of London after being taken on a 30 minute helicopter trip.
One of the most famous example of an autistic savant is Daniel Tammet.
Baron-Cohen et al. developed the ‘ Reading the mind in the Eyes Task’. ( Eyes task for short)
Aim is to provide support for the cognitive explanation of autism, specifically that autistic adults lack advanced theory of mind skills; the ability to predict the thoughts or behaviour of another person.
Quasi- experiment design = independent variable varies naturally without the need for manipulation by experimenter.
Order effects = order of each task was change regularly for each participant to reduce effects that might change results, e. g. tiredness, boredom, getting used to design of experiment.
METHOD: Procedure Each group was asked to complete the same 4 tasks.
1. The Eye Task.
Participants shown 25 different faces with only the eye region visible.
All photos taken from magazines and turned into black and white.
All pictures show same region from midway along the nose to above the eyebrow.
Each picture shown for 3 seconds and the participants asked to select between 2 mental state terms printed under each picture to suggest what mental state the person was in. For each photo there was a mental state and its ‘foil’ (opposite)
Chose terms from 2 mental states. A) Basic = sad, happy. B) Complex = reflective, arrogant
Who performed the worst on the eyes task? Give statistical evidence
Who was better at the eyes task? Males or Females?
Condition Mean score on the Eye Task Adults with autism or Asperger syndrome 16.3 'Normal' adults 20.3 Adults with Tourette syndrome 20.4 Condition Mean score on the Eye Task 'Normal' males 18.8 'Normal' females 21.8
Autistic / Asperger’s syndrome group significantly less able to cope on the eyes task.
Normal and Torette’s Syndrome participants had very close results.
Autistic group’s responses on Happe’s strange stories showed significant errors.
No differences on the control tasks between 3 groups.
DISCUSSION (discussing the results and why they might have been that way)
Adults with autism or AS were impaired on a ToM test even though they were of normal intelligence.
Normal population perform better on tests of ToM than males.
Autism impairment is not due to the following: low intelligence, any developmental neuropsychiatric disability as TS participants were unimpaired on the test, due to weak central coherence (cannot separate themselves from reality – given no context in eyes task, e.g. Sally has just fallen over, how would she feel?)