Language and Theory of Mind in Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Relationship Between Complement Syntax and False Belief Task Performance

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Abstract

This study aimed to test the hypothesis that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use their knowledge of complement syntax as a means of “hacking out” solutions to false belief tasks, despite lacking a representational theory of mind (ToM). Participants completed a “memory for complements” task, a measure of receptive vocabulary, and traditional location change and unexpected contents false belief tasks. Consistent with predictions, the correlation between complement syntax score and location change task performance was significantly stronger within the ASD group than within the comparison group. However, contrary to predictions, complement syntax score was not significantly correlated with unexpected contents task performance within either group. Possible explanations for this pattern of results are considered.

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