Absence of spontaneous action anticipation by false belief attribution in children with autism spectrum disorder

Atsushi Senju, Victoria Southgate, Yui Miura, Tomoko Matsui, Toshikazu Hasegawa, Yoshikuni Tojo, Hiroo Osanai, Gergely Csibra

Research output: Article

59 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, a series of studies demonstrated false belief understanding in young children through completely nonverbal measures. These studies have revealed that children younger than 3 years of age, who consistently fail the standard verbal false belief test, can anticipate others' actions based on their attributed false beliefs. The current study examined whether children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who are known to have difficulties in the verbal false belief test, may also show such action anticipation in a nonverbal false belief test. We presented video stimuli of an actor watching an object being hidden in a box. The object was then displaced while the actor was looking away. We recorded children's eye movements and coded whether they spontaneously anticipated the actor's subsequent behavior, which could only have been predicted if they had attributed a false belief to her. Although typically developing children correctly anticipated the action, children with ASD failed to show such action anticipation. The results suggest that children with ASD have an impairment in false belief attribution, which is independent of their verbal ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-360
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - máj. 1 2010


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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