An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind
198 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: January 22, 1997
- Published: February 24, 1995
In Mindblindness, Simon Baron-Cohen presents a model of the evolution and development of "mindreading." He argues that we mindread all the time, effortlessly, automatically, and mostly unconsciously. It is the natural way in which we interpret, predict, and participate in social behavior and communication. We ascribe mental states to people: states such as thoughts, desires, knowledge, and intentions.
Building on many years of research, Baron-Cohen concludes that children with autism, suffer from "mindblindness" as a result of a selective impairment in mindreading. For these children, the world is essentially devoid of mental things.
Baron-Cohen develops a theory that draws on data from comparative psychology, from developmental, and from neuropsychology. He argues that specific neurocognitive mechanisms have evolved that allow us to mindread, to make sense of actions, to interpret gazes as meaningful, and to decode "the language of the eyes."
Bradford Books imprint
In this volume Simon Baron-Choen offers the first major attempt to provide a coherent account of how we understand minds, by synthesizing research conducted across diverse disciplines including evolutionary psychology, cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychopathology. The most significant accomplishment this book achieves is to transform our understanding of autism - a disorder that leads to what Baron-Cohen has so aptly termed mindblindness. The argument he develops is both original and deeply insightful. Baron-Cohen has the rare gift of presenting his ideas in a lucid and deceptively simple style that will make this gem of a book accessible to a wide-ranging audience.
Helen Tager-Flusberg, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Massachusetts
This book makes a major contribution to the field of theory of mind and its disturbances. It presents new ideas about a topic of the utmost importance: how does this capacity develop and what are its precursors? Baron-Cohen's contribution is the most relevant and fertile I have seen thus far.
Juan Carlos Gomez, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid
This book covers some of the most interesting work recently to emerge from developmental psychology, namely, the synthesis of developmental, clinical, and comparative research that has led to the notion of the 'Theory of Mind' deficit in autism. Simon Baron-Cohen has unquestionably been at the forefront of research in this area, and is one of the leading empirical lights in the field.
Alison Gopnik, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
Wow! In this lucid, compelling book Simon Baron-Cohen guides us deep into the realm of the mind. His topic: our everyday ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, desires, emotions, intentions—to each other. Mindreading, he calls it. But his topic is also the intriguing inability of some individuals—especially autistics but also infants and nonhuman animals—to engage in this everyday feat. Mindblindness he calls it. Baron-Cohen convinvingly argues that mindreading of this mundane everyday variety is actually an impressive human ability, one that is specially evolved, specially neurologically supported, and that is rapidly acquired by almost all young humans, save autistics. In these senses it is much like seeing. Baron-Cohen neatly stitches together neuroscience, psychiatry, development, and evolution; he summarizes and integrates his own impressive research, but that of many others as well. This fascinating book captures the excitment of an emerging field, and advances that field.
Henry M. Wellman, Department of Psychology and Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan