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Titolo: Understanding others' mind: a longitudinal-sequential study in typically developing and ASD toddlers
Data di pubblicazione: 2014
Abstract: A possible way to investigate the roots of social cognition in infancy may be to consider the early socio-cognitive competences which appears before 24 months in the light of Perners’ theory of children’s developing representational skills. According to this theory, children’s understanding of mind reflects their level of understanding representation in general. Thus, declarative pointing might be considered as an early manifestation of the meta-representation abilities necessary for the later development of a first-order Theory of Mind (ToM). If this is true, this ability should: a) correlate with other early representational abilities, like mirror-self recognition (MSR) and symbolic play, before 24 months; b) correlate with later mentalistic abilities, like for example internal state talk. Moreover, the emergence of such abilities should be impaired in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), who are known to be impoverished in Theory of Mind (Baron-Cohen, 1989). This study aimed to investigate the concurrent relationship between declarative pointing, MSR and symbolic play before 24 months and their sequential relationship with internal state talk at 30 months in TD and ASD toddlers. Two groups of TD children were evaluated by means of a sequential-longitudinal study. The first group was tested from 16 to 24 months, every month, for the production of declarative pointing (procedure described in Perucchini et al., 1997), mirror recognition of self, a familiar adult and a desired object (procedure adapted from Gouin-Décarie, Pouliot, Poulin-Dubois, 1983) and symbolic play (procedure described in Ungerer e Sigman, 1981). The second group was tested at 22 and 24 months with the same procedure of group one and at 30 months for internal state talk with the story-book “Frog, where are you?” (Mayer et al., 1969). The children of the two groups which resulted homogenous at the age of their overlapping (22-24 months) in the abilities considered were merged into an unique sample. The same design was applied to ASD children, matched with TD children for developmental age. The results indicated that MSR emerged first in TD children (17 months), followed by declarative pointing (18 months) and symbolic play (20 months). Declarative pointing correlated with MSR at 20 months (r=0.385; p≤0.05) in TD. MSR was the only ability found in children with ASD (18 months of developmental age). In children with ASD the mirror recognition of a familiar adult was absent but not the mirror object-recognition. Moreover, while in TD children MRS was strongly associated at 18 months with mirror object-recognition (r=0.517; p≤0.05) and with the recognition of a familiar adult (r=0.502; p≤0.05), no correlations were found in children with ASD. In TDs, internal states talk at 30 months correlated with declarative pointing at 17 months (r=0,825; p≤0.05) and MSR at 17 months (r=0,917; p≤0.05). No correlations were found in ASD children, despite comparable abilities to TDs to talk about internal states. These results seem to confirm Perner’s representational theory, according to which the emergence of a ToM might be grounded on representational abilities emerging before 24 months. The nature of MSR in ASD will be specifically discussed.
Tipologia:4.2 Abstract in Atti di convegno

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