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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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6.7 1980s–90s: a new theory of autism

In 1985 three psychologists, Simon Baron-Cohen, Uta Frith and Alan Leslie, published an experimental study suggesting that children with autism have difficulty understanding what others are thinking and feeling – a ‘Theory of Mind (ToM)’ difficulty (Baron-Cohen, Leslie and Frith, 1985). This finding stimulated a huge wave of further research, throughout the 1990s and to the present day. Though by no means the only new theory proposed during this period, and much modified, it is still influential. You will come across it later in the course.

A photograph of Simon Baron-Cohen.
Figure 6 Simon Baron-Cohen b.1958
A photograph of Uta Frith.
Figure 7 Uta Frith b.1941