A group of children with autism were taught a specific strategy to help them solve a series of theory of mind problems. We focused our teaching on the false-belief task and taught them the analogy that people have photos in their heads. This strategy draws on a domain of intact cognition in autism (understanding photographic representations) to bypass a cognitive impairment in a certain domain (understanding mental state representations). All the children were able to understand photographic misrepresentation during teaching and, following specific teaching, they could use the strategy of visualising photos in characters' heads to predict the character's behaviour. In contrast, none of the children could use the photo strategy to predict a character's mental states. The educational and theoretical implications of this study are discussed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was made possible by a grant to Simon Baron-Cohen and Juan-Carlos Gomez from the British Council and the Spanish Ministry of Education under the Acciones Integradas Anglo-Spanish Research Collaboration. We would also like to thank Teresa McCormack, Chris Jarrold, Terese Jolliffe, and Julie Hadwin for discussion and comments.