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Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 6/2017

25-03-2017 | Original Paper

How Children with Autism Reason about Other’s Intentions: False-Belief and Counterfactual Inferences

Auteurs: Célia Rasga, Ana Cristina Quelhas, Ruth M. J. Byrne

Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders | Uitgave 6/2017

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Abstract

We examine false belief and counterfactual reasoning in children with autism with a new change-of-intentions task. Children listened to stories, for example, Anne is picking up toys and John hears her say she wants to find her ball. John goes away and the reason for Anne’s action changes—Anne’s mother tells her to tidy her bedroom. We asked, ‘What will John believe is the reason that Anne is picking up toys?’ which requires a false-belief inference, and ‘If Anne’s mother hadn’t asked Anne to tidy her room, what would have been the reason she was picking up toys?’ which requires a counterfactual inference. We tested children aged 6, 8 and 10 years. Children with autism made fewer correct inferences than typically developing children at 8 years, but by 10 years there was no difference. Children with autism made fewer correct false-belief than counterfactual inferences, just like typically developing children.
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Voetnoten
1
This test was administered by the child’s psychologist and the scores made available to us for screening before the study was carried out.
 
2
This test is part of the verbal comprehension subscale and measures children’s knowledge of words and formation of concepts (Wechsler 2002). There are 36 items: 4 picture items and 32 verbal items.
 
3
We included a fourth question about the conjectural future, e.g., ‘What if next time Anne’s mother does not tell her to tidy her room, what will be the reason that Anne is picking up toys?’. However, such conjectural inferences about future intentional relations are often not deterministic, e.g., the reason Anne picks up toys today may be to find her ball, but tomorrow the reason may be to find her doll or to look at a teddy, or any number of different reasons and so we do not include responses to these questions in the analyses.
 
4
The analysis showed a main effect of group, F(1, 68) = 11.54, p < .001, np2 = 0.15, age, F(2, 68) = 45.51, p < .001, np2 = 0.58, and reasoning task, F (1, 68) = 33.59, p < .001, np2 = 0.33. Group did not interact with age, F (2, 68) = 1.92, p < .155, or reasoning task, F (1,68) = 1.69, p < .198; however age and reasoning task interacted, F (1, 68) = 12.74, p < .001, np2 = 0.27 and the interaction of the three variables was not significant, F (2, 68) = 2.69, p < .075, np2 = 0.07. The decomposition of the non-significant three-way interaction, with a Bonferroni corrected alpha of p = .004, showed that at 6 years of age, children with autism made as few correct inferences as typically developing children for false belief inferences, t < 1, and counterfactual inferences t (68) = 1.25, p = .217; however at 8 years of age children with autism made fewer correct inferences than typically developing children for false belief inferences, t (68) = 4.54, p < .001, d = 1.31, and counterfactual inferences, although the latter was not significant on the corrected alpha, t (68) = 2.08, p < .04, d = 0.60; by 10 years of age, children with autism made as many correct inferences as typically developing children for false belief inferences, t (68) = 1.44, p = .15 and counterfactual inferences, t < 1. The comparisons also showed that typically developing children made more correct counterfactual inferences than false belief ones at 6 years of age, t (68) = 5.57, p < .001, d = 1.46, but this gap was closed by 8 years and 10 years, t < 1 in both cases. In contrast, children with autism made more correct counterfactual inferences than false belief ones at 6 years of age, t (68) = 4.50, p < .001, d = 1.29, this difference persisted at 8 years, t (68) = 3.61, p < .001, d = 1.04, and the gap was closed at 10 years t < 1.
 
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Metagegevens
Titel
How Children with Autism Reason about Other’s Intentions: False-Belief and Counterfactual Inferences
Auteurs
Célia Rasga
Ana Cristina Quelhas
Ruth M. J. Byrne
Publicatiedatum
25-03-2017
Uitgeverij
Springer US
Gepubliceerd in
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders / Uitgave 6/2017
Print ISSN: 0162-3257
Elektronisch ISSN: 1573-3432
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3107-3