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Title: The development of the construct of theory of mind in relation to autistic spectrum disorders
Author: Greenhill, Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 2711 2600
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2011
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Autism was "discovered" by Leo Kanner (1943) and Hans Asperger (1944), and has subsequently been described as a "spectrum" condition (Wing, 1981). This diagnostic class aggregates individuals with a diverse range of behaviour. Following Eyal et al. (2010) and Nadesan (2005) this thesis describes the social and historical emergence of the construct of autism, in particular, the use of this category to apply control strategies over what is constructed as a deviant and abnormal population. A key issue in the development of autism as a construct is the attempt to find the "cause" of the condition. A dominant psychological approach to this is the "theory of mind" model that suggests that autism is caused by impairment in ability to infer mental states in others, and thereby understand and predict their behaviour. Theory of mind ability is typically presented as biologically determined and innately developing. As such this is an a-historical and non-contingent account of autism, in contrast to the social and historical account of autism previously outlined. A post-modern epistemology is outlined, following the work of Foucault (2000) and Baudrillard (1983), with the aim of suggesting that the historical and the ToM account of autism are both different simulations of this disorder, with no valid way in which to decide between them. The aim of this thesis is to complete a Foucauldian Discourse Analysis of ten articles or chapters concerning theory of mind and autism with a view to assimilating these to the historical account, and by so doing suggest how this model serves to construct an abnormal subject to which practices of social control can be applied. Another aim is to consider the rhetorical strategies used within the text to justify and maintain the theory of mind model of autism. There then follows a discussion of the implications for clinical psychology as a discipline, and some remarks concerning a "reflexive" critique of the thesis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available