Theory of mind

It’s past time to stop using the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test

The widely used measure of “theory of mind” needs to be re-examined, along with the long-standing claim that autism is linked to a lack of this ability.

By Wendy C. Higgins, Robert M. Ross
16 May 2024 | 8 min read
Illustration of half of a brain on the left and half of a heart on the right
Spectrum Microphone

Change of heart and mind: Autism’s ties to cardiac defects

Children with congenital heart disease have an increased likelihood of autism. Why?

By Lauren Schenkman
21 July 2023 | 12 min read
Brain scans displaying activity in areas linked with social behavior.
Spectrum Microphone

People’s perceptions of ‘social’ animations don’t always square with researchers’ labels

The finding calls into question differences between autistic and non-autistic people on a decades-old theory-of-mind test involving interacting geometric shapes.

By Charles Q. Choi
22 February 2023 | 6 min read
Noah Sasson, a thin white man, stands in a courtyard with his hands in his pockets.

Noah Sasson: Connecting with the autistic community

Intentional interactions with autistic people led Sasson to refocus his research.

By Rachel Zamzow
15 September 2022 | 13 min read
Illustration of hybrid objects: part light bulb, part lab vial, some in blue and some in red to signify null and replicated results.

Null and Noteworthy: Mind reading, specialist shortage, sleep problems source

This month, a commonly used emotion-recognition test doesn’t perform as expected — nor does a survey of past efforts to train autism specialists or a hunt for the sources of the sleep problems that often accompany the condition.

By Emily Harris
23 August 2022 | 4 min read
Four brains showing areas affected by the X chomosome in yellow

X chromosome exerts extra influence on brain development

The X chromosome holds stronger-than-expected genetic sway over the structure of several brain regions. The genes that may underlie this oversized influence have ties to autism.

By Rachel Zamzow
15 September 2021 | 5 min read
Illustration shows two octopi interacting on a yellow background.
Spectrum Microphone

Getting eight arms around autism

Octopuses can solve some of the same problems as people but do so in unusual ways.

By Sarah DeWeerdt
8 September 2021 | 4 min read
Illustration shows a woman whose mouth is covered by a cloud and whos eyes are covered by a cloud.
Spectrum Microphone

Double empathy, explained

The double empathy theory challenges the idea that social difficulties are specific to autism and suggests that problems arise from a mismatch in perspective between autistic and non-autistic people.

By Rachel Zamzow
22 July 2021 | 8 min read
Man reaches into cabinet while a woman looks on

Single neurons may power key ‘theory of mind’ skills

A subset of brain cells signal when someone tries to infer another person’s thoughts, according to a new study.

By Angie Voyles Askham
8 February 2021 | 4 min read
Photograph shows young woman and older woman discussing paperwork.

‘Theory of mind’ does not fade with age among autistic adults

Autistic people's ability to understand another person's thinking does not diminish with age, as it does for non-autistic people.

By Peter Hess
13 November 2020 | 4 min read

Explore more from The Transmitter

Brain organoids overgrowth; DSCAM gene; sleep issues in autism

Here is a roundup of autism-related news and research spotted around the web for the week of 24 June.

By Jill Adams
25 June 2024 | 2 min read
Close-up image of a dead fly with visible growths protruding from its abdomen due to Entomophthora fungus infection.

Mind control in zombie flies: Q&A with Carolyn Elya

A parasitic fungus compels its insect host to behave in strange ways by hijacking secretory neurons and circadian pathways.

By Shaena Montanari
25 June 2024 | 5 min read
Illustration of a canyon landscape with an orange clock face in place of a sun.

How to teach this paper: ‘Behavioral time scale synaptic plasticity underlies CA1 place fields,’ by Bittner and Milstein et al. (2017)

Katie Bittner, Aaron Milstein and their colleagues found that cellular learning can happen over longer timescales than Hebb’s rule predicts. How long should we wait to teach students about this phenomenon?

By Ashley Juavinett
24 June 2024 | 11 min read