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Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor in Developmental Psychopathology and Director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, is the author of Mindblindness (MIT Press, 1997) and The Essential Difference: The Truth about the Male and Female Mind.

Titles by This Author

Amniotic Fluid Studies

This pioneering study looks at the effects of prenatal testosterone on postnatal development and behavior. Hormonal effects on behavior have long been studied in animals; the unique contribution of this book is to suggest a connection between human fetal hormones and later behavior. It details for the first time testosterone's effect on social and language development, opening a new avenue of research for cognitive neuroscience.

The authors look at samples of amniotic fluid taken during amniocentesis at 16 weeks' gestation, and relate the fetal level of testosterone (which is present in fetuses of both sexes, although in different quantities) to behavior at ages 1, 2, and 4 years. They argue that the amniotic fluid provides a window into the child's past—a chemical record of that child's time in the womb—that allows informed prediction about the child's future brain, mind, and behavior. This is not the retrospective speculation of psychoanalysis, they point out, but an opportunity to study development prospectively and trace developmental precursors and causes of later cognition.

The study suggests that prenatal levels of testosterone affect a range of later behaviors in children, from the inclination to make eye contact with others to the size of the vocabulary. It also suggests that prenatal testosterone level may be related to the development of typically "masculine" and "feminine" behaviors. The study's ongoing research explores whether fetal testosterone has any link with the risk of developing autism. Connecting endocrinology and psychology, the authors propose that there is a biological component to behaviors often thought to be produced by the social environment.

An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind

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."

A Bradford Book.

Learning, Development, and Conceptual Change series