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Title: Word learning and theory of mind : typically developing preschoolers and children with autism spectrum disorder
Author: Manola , Eirini
ISNI:       0000 0004 2745 5726
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2012
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Five experiments investigated the importance of attentional and social cues in word learning, the relationship between word learning and theory of mind (ToM), methods that might promote performance on ToM tasks in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and children's understanding of deception. The experiments included groups of typically developing children aged between 2- and 5-years, and high functioning children with ASD. Experiments 1 and 2 replicated a study by Akhtar and colleagues (1996) to investigate the role of 'object salience' and discourse novelty' in word learning. These studies showed that children tend to use saliency cues to infer word meaning in the absence of social cues, but attend to the latter when these are available. This was true for both populations, indicating that children with ASD can develop rather advanced skills in language and social cognition following interventions. Experiments 3 and 4 implemented novel ToM tasks focussing attention on the objects or the colours used within the task. Children had to infer intention through the act of choosing. They were also either taught or not taught the names for the test objects', Performance improved in both groups with knowledge of relevant labels, but especially in the ASD group when the most salient feature within the games was colour. Focusing attention on colour within learning contexts might motivate children with ASD to follow, understand and perform on a learning task. Experiment 5 was an exploratory study looking at children's understanding of deception when the contextual cues are perceptual, social, or verbal. The results are discussed in light of the relative importance of these cues in the assessment of ToM abilities in children.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available