Mind-blindness

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Mind-blindness, mindblindness or mind blindness is a theory initially developed in 1990 that explains autistic people as having a lack or developmental delay of theory of mind (ToM), meaning they are unable to attribute mental states to others.[1][2][3] According to the theory, a lack of ToM is considered equivalent to a lack of both cognitive and affective empathy.[4] Mind-blindness in autistic people, in the theory considered a lack of ToM, implies being unable to predict behavior and attribute mental states including beliefs, desires, emotions or intentions of other people.[5] The mind-blindness theory asserts that children who delay in this development will often develop autism.[6][4] One of the main proponents of mind-blindness was Simon Baron-Cohen, who later pioneered empathising–systemising theory.[6]

Since the development of strong evidence to demonstrate the heterogeneity of autism and many failed replications of classic theory of mind studies, mind-blindness has been generally rejected by the scientific community.[7][8] [9]

Theory of mind[edit]

Mind-blindness is defined as a state where the ToM has not been developed in an individual.[1] According to the theory, neurotypical people can make automatic interpretations of events taking into consideration the mental states of people, their desires, and beliefs. Individuals lacking ToM would therefore perceive the world in a confusing and frightening manner, leading to a social withdrawal.[1] The theory was based on the assumption that biology is linked to autistic behavior, so it was expected that a delayed development or lack of ToM would lead to additional psychiatric complications. Research into a model with more than two categories was also considered.[1]

Mind-blindness, a lack of ToM, was later theorised to be equivalent to a lack of empathy,[4] although research published a year later suggests there is considerable overlap but not complete equivalence.[10] It was empirically demonstrated that processing of complex cognitive emotions is more difficult than processing simpler emotions. In addition, evidence existed at the time that autism was not correlated with the failure of social bonding and attachment in childhood. This was interpreted to suggest that emotion is a component of social cognition that is separable from mentalizing.[3]

Biological basis[edit]

Superior temporal sulcus

Since the frontal lobe is associated with executive function, it was predicted that the frontal lobe plays an important role in ToM; that executive function and theory of mind share the same functional regions in the brain.[11] Damage to the frontal lobe is known to affect theory of mind,[12][13] partially confirming this hypothesis. From a 2000 study, it was found that a neural network that comprised the medial prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, the circumscribed region of the anterior paracingulate cortex and the superior temporal sulcus, is crucial for the normal functioning of ToM and self monitoring.[14][5] Although there is a possibility that ToM and mind-blindness could explain executive function deficits, it was argued that autism is not identified with the failure of executive function alone.[15] It has also been shown that the right temporo-parietal junction behaves differently in those with autism,[16] and the middle cingulate cortex is less active in autistic people during mentalization.[17]

History and relationship to autism[edit]

Mind-blindness in cases of autism[edit]

In an attempt to empirically explain the tendency of autistic people to avoid eye contact, a hypothesis was proposed in 1995 called the "mind-blindness hypothesis", which states "that children with autism fail to understand something crucial about the eyes themselves".[2] This hypothesis was tested with participant performance on false-belief tasks and detecting gaze shifts.[18] In the moral blindness hypothesis study, some evidence existed to support this hypothesis. At the time there was insufficient evidence to support a generalization to explain facial processing difficulties and affective sensitivity, common characteristics of autism, with this hypothesis. In 2001, it was suggested that the mind-blindness hypothesis may explain more severe symptoms of autism, including social withdrawal and social skill deficiencies.[3] With good robustness, it was found that a lower performance on mentalization tasks correlates with autism, suggesting mentalization theory as an effective explanatory model of autism, especially for social skill deficiencies. However, the generally unclear physiological basis of mentalization at the time limited a broader understating of the correlation.[3] The 1996 book Theories of Mind[19]: 258  argues in support of the mind-blindness hypothesis in spite of inclusive evidence for its generalisation. Recognising the hypothesis has lost popularity, he argues this is mainly due to the disregard of its proponents to consider the perspectives of autistic people.

The assumption that autism is a homogenous condition underpinned by a theory of mind deficit, genetics, neurological abnormalities, or a 'failure of understanding' as implied by the mind-blindness hypothesis was questioned shortly after its publication.[20] This contrasts with autism as heterogeneous.[21] There is now a large pool of strong evidence supporting the heterogeneity of autism,[8][22][23] and general scientific consensus accepts this as contrary to the original mind-blindness hypothesis, although there has existed some disagreement that heterogeneity is incompatible with alternative mind-blindness definitions.[21]

An author of the original mind-blindness hypothesis, Simon Baron-Cohen, later published foundational research in empathising–systemising theory, which asserts there exists neurological sex differences that exist in autism,[24] and that such differences are due not exclusively to socialization.[25]

Mind-blindness towards those with autism[edit]

The double empathy problem, developed in 2012 is a theory in opposition of the mind-blindness hypothesis, which proposes that social and communication difficulties present in autistic people are due to a reciprocal lack of understanding and bidirectional differences in communication style between autistic people and neurotypical people, as opposed to an asymmetric theory such as the mind-blindness hypothesis. There is a growing body of evidence supporting the double empathy problem.[26][27] A possible explanation supported empirically is that the reciprocal lack of understanding between autistic people and neurotypicals is because "we interpret others’ actions according to models built through experience with our own actions".[28]

See also[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Baron-Cohen, Simon (1990). "Autism: a specific cognitive disorder of 'mind-blindness". International Review of Psychiatry. 2 (1): 81–90. doi:10.3109/09540269009028274.
  2. ^ a b Baron-Cohen, Simon; Campbell, Ruth; Karmiloff-Smith, Annette; Grant, Julia; Walker, Jane (November 1995). "Are children with autism blind to the mentalistic significance of the eyes?". British Journal of Developmental Psychology. 13 (4): 379–398. doi:10.1111/j.2044-835x.1995.tb00687.x. ISSN 0261-510X.
  3. ^ a b c d Frith, Uta (20 December 2001). "Mind Blindness and the Brain in Autism". Neuron. 32 (6): 969–979. doi:10.1016/S0896-6273(01)00552-9. PMID 11754830.
  4. ^ a b c Jurecic, Ann (Spring 2006). "Mindblindness: Autism, Writing, and the Problem of Empathy". Literature and Medicine. 25 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1353/lm.2006.0021. PMID 17040082. S2CID 2822141.
  5. ^ a b Gallagher, Helen L.; Frith, Christopher D. (1 February 2003). "Functional imaging of 'theory of mind'" (PDF). Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 7 (2): 77–83. doi:10.1016/S1364-6613(02)00025-6. PMID 12584026. S2CID 14873867.
  6. ^ a b Baron-Cohen, Simon (25 March 2009). "Autism: The Empathizing-Systemizing (E-S) Theory". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1156, The Year in Cognitive Neuroscience (1): 68–80. Bibcode:2009NYASA1156...68B. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04467.x. PMID 19338503. S2CID 1440395.
  7. ^ Brock, Jon; Sukenik, Nufar; Friedmann, Naama (January 2017). "Individual differences in autistic children's homograph reading: Evidence from Hebrew". Autism & Developmental Language Impairments. 2: 239694151771494. doi:10.1177/2396941517714945. ISSN 2396-9415. S2CID 148852164.
  8. ^ a b Mottron, Laurent; Bzdok, Danilo (December 2020). "Autism spectrum heterogeneity: fact or artifact?". Molecular Psychiatry. 25 (12): 3178–3185. doi:10.1038/s41380-020-0748-y. ISSN 1476-5578. PMC 7714694. PMID 32355335.
  9. ^ Gernsbacher, Morton; Yergeau, Melanie (2019). "Empirical Failures of the Claim That Autistic People Lack a Theory of Mind". Archives of Scientific Psychology. 7: 102–118. doi:10.1037/arc0000067.
  10. ^ Rogers, Kimberley; Dziobek, Isabel; Hassenstab, Jason; Wolf, Oliver T.; Convit, Antonio (2006-08-12). "Who Cares? Revisiting Empathy in Asperger Syndrome". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 37 (4): 709–715. doi:10.1007/s10803-006-0197-8. ISSN 0162-3257. PMID 16906462. S2CID 13999363.
  11. ^ Josef Perner & Birgit Lang (1 September 1999). "Development of theory of mind and executive control". Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 3 (9): 337–344. doi:10.1016/s1364-6613(99)01362-5. PMID 10461196. S2CID 11112882.
  12. ^ Bird, Chris M.; Castelli, Fulvia; Malik, Omar; Frith, Uta; Husain, Masud (2004-04-01). "The impact of extensive medial frontal lobe damage on 'Theory of Mind' and cognition". Brain. 127 (4): 914–928. doi:10.1093/brain/awh108. ISSN 0006-8950. PMID 14998913.
  13. ^ Stone, Valerie E.; Baron-Cohen, Simon; Knight, Robert T. (September 1998). "Frontal Lobe Contributions to Theory of Mind". Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 10 (5): 640–656. doi:10.1162/089892998562942. ISSN 0898-929X. PMID 9802997. S2CID 207724498.
  14. ^ Vogeley, K.; Bussfeld, P.; Newen, A.; Herrmann, S.; Happé, F.; Falkai, P.; Maier, W.; Shah, N.J.; Fink, G.R.; Zilles, K. (July 2001). "Mind Reading: Neural Mechanisms of Theory of Mind and Self-Perspective". NeuroImage. 14 (1): 170–181. doi:10.1006/nimg.2001.0789. ISSN 1053-8119. PMID 11525326. S2CID 7053366.
  15. ^ Carruthers, Peter (1996). "Chapter 16. Autism as Mind-Blindness: an elaboration and partial defence (pp. 257 ff.)". In Carruthers, Peter; Smith, Peter K. (eds.). Theories of Theories of Mind. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-55916-4.
  16. ^ Lombardo, Michael V.; Chakrabarti, Bhismadev; Bullmore, Edward T.; Baron-Cohen, Simon (June 2011). "Specialization of right temporo-parietal junction for mentalizing and its relation to social impairments in autism". NeuroImage. 56 (3): 1832–1838. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.02.067. ISSN 1053-8119. PMID 21356316. S2CID 14782731.
  17. ^ Chiu, Pearl H.; Kayali, M. Amin; Kishida, Kenneth T.; Tomlin, Damon; Klinger, Laura G.; Klinger, Mark R.; Montague, P. Read (February 2008). "Self Responses along Cingulate Cortex Reveal Quantitative Neural Phenotype for High-Functioning Autism". Neuron. 57 (3): 463–473. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2007.12.020. ISSN 0896-6273. PMC 4512741. PMID 18255038.
  18. ^ Mosconi, Matthew W.; Mack, Peter B.; McCarthy, Gregory; Pelphrey, Kevin A. (August 2005). "Taking an "intentional stance" on eye-gaze shifts: A functional neuroimaging study of social perception in children". NeuroImage. 27 (1): 247–252. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.03.027. PMID 16023041. S2CID 25792636.
  19. ^ Carruthers, Peter; Smith, Peter K., eds. (1996-02-23). Theories of Theories of Mind. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511597985. ISBN 9780521551106.
  20. ^ Shanker, S. (1 October 2004). "The Roots of Mindblindness". Theory & Psychology. 14 (5): 685–703. doi:10.1177/0959354304046179. S2CID 143801835.
  21. ^ a b Smukler, David (February 2005). "Unauthorized Minds: How 'Theory of Mind' Theory Misrepresents Autism". Mental Retardation. 43 (1): 11–24. doi:10.1352/0047-6765(2005)43<11:UMHTOM>2.0.CO;2. PMID 15628930.
  22. ^ Lenroot, Rhoshel K.; Yeung, Pui Ka (2013-10-30). "Heterogeneity within Autism Spectrum Disorders: What have We Learned from Neuroimaging Studies?". Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 7: 733. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00733. ISSN 1662-5161. PMC 3812662. PMID 24198778.
  23. ^ Masi, Anne; DeMayo, Marilena M.; Glozier, Nicholas; Guastella, Adam J. (2017-02-17). "An Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Heterogeneity and Treatment Options". Neuroscience Bulletin. 33 (2): 183–193. doi:10.1007/s12264-017-0100-y. ISSN 1673-7067. PMC 5360849. PMID 28213805.
  24. ^ Baron-Cohen, S.; Knickmeyer, Rebecca S.; Belmonte, Mathew S. (4 November 2005). "Sex Differences in the Brain: Implications for Explaining Autism" (PDF). Science. 310 (5749): 819–823. Bibcode:2005Sci...310..819B. doi:10.1126/science.1115455. PMID 16272115. S2CID 44330420.
  25. ^ Chapter 16 The evolution of empathizing and systemizing: assortative mating of two strong systemizers and the cause of autism. The Oxford handbook of evolutionary psychology. R. I. M. Dunbar, Louise Barrett. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-856830-8. OCLC 75713253.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  26. ^ Milton, Damian E.M. (October 2012). "On the ontological status of autism: the 'double empathy problem'". Disability & Society. 27 (6): 883–887. doi:10.1080/09687599.2012.710008. ISSN 0968-7599. S2CID 54047060.
  27. ^ "Double empathy, explained". Spectrum. Simons Foundation. 2021-07-22. Retrieved 2022-02-13.
  28. ^ "Supplemental Material for Interaction Takes Two: Typical Adults Exhibit Mind-Blindness Towards Those With Autism Spectrum Disorder". Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 2016. doi:10.1037/abn0000199.supp. ISSN 0021-843X.

References[edit]

  • Geoffrey Cowley, "Understanding Autism," Newsweek, July 31, 2000.
  • Simon Baron-Cohen, "First lessons in mind reading," The Times Higher Education Supplement, July 16, 1995.
  • Suddendorf, T., & Whiten, A. (2001). "Mental evolution and development: evidence for secondary representation in children, great apes and other animals." Psychological Bulletin, 629–650.
  • Hyman, S. L. (2013). New DSM-5 includes changes to autism criteria. AAP News, 4, 20130604–1.
  • National Autism Center. (2020). Online post. https://www.nationalautismcenter.org/
  • Wellman, H. M. (1992). The MIT Press series in learning, development, and conceptual change. The child's Theory of Mind. The MIT Press.