A selection of ‘Strange Stories’ – Theory of Mind & Autism.

Only the other week I was talking about the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes‘ task that Baron-Cohen employed in his 1997 research looking at high functioning adults with Autism and Aspergers.

In order to validate the Eyes Task as a theory of mind task, participants in the two clinical groups (ASD & Tourette’s) were also tested on Happe’s Strange Stories.

This assesses the ability to interpret a nonliteral statement. Relative to normal controls who were IQ and age-matched, individuals with autism or Asperger syndrome performed less well on the task, while performing normally on a non-mentalistic control task. Individuals with autism or Asperger syndrome could provide mental state answers, but had difficulty in providing contextually appropriate mental state answers. Rather, their answers tended to concentrate on the utterance in isolation. This replicates Happé’s result. Although the majority of both clinical groups provided context-inappropriate interpretations, the autism group had the greater difficulty. 

It was argued that if the Eyes Task was indeed tapping theory of mind, then performance on the Eyes Task should correlate with performance on Happe’s strange stories – and this is what was found. See Holah for a great summary of the 1997 study.

As they seem to be difficult to come across here’s a selection of ‘Strange Stories’ that were used by Kaland et al. (2005) in a replication-type-study of Baron-Cohen’s (1999) research into those with ASD’s ability to correctly answer these questions.

Thanks to Rosey on the OCR e-list for trawling articles and finding the Kaland et. al (2005) study.

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4 Responses to “A selection of ‘Strange Stories’ – Theory of Mind & Autism.”

  1. Krystian Aparta July 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these! I will use some of them in a talk on the autistic traits of some Star Trek characters.

  2. Lucy August 10, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    Hi, I can’t seem to find the examples. are they still available?


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