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"Theory of Mind and Peer Relationships in late childhood and adolescence"

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Advanced theory of mind tasks, such as HappĂ©’s Strange Stories task or Corcoran’s Hinting task successfully discriminate between clinical and typically developing groups, but have yet to be applied to examine variation in typically developing children’s social understanding and competence. Our first study (N = 470) used two groups of children (British and Italian 11- to 13-year olds, matched for age, gender and comprehension of control vignettes) to examine links between theory of mind task performance and multi-informant measures of social inclusion. For both samples, scores on each theory of mind task were associated with self- and peer-reported social inclusion. However, these results may simply reflect general effects of verbal ability, as both tasks place strong demands on verbal comprehension. Thus in our second study we used clips from a classic silent movie to develop a new, less verbal, test of theory of mind, which was administered (alongside the Strange Stories task) to two different age groups of British children (10- and 17-year-olds; N > 200), who also completed tests of verbal ability and executive function. This study showed: (i) a clear age-related improvement in theory of mind performance, even when effects of verbal ability and executive function were taken into account; and (ii) robust associations between self-reported social inclusion and scores on both theory of mind tasks, with performance silent movie task showing especially strong links with children’s social success at school. Our next step is to assess whether performance on the silent movies task also predicts social success among young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

This talk is part of the ARClub Talks series.

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