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Title page for ETD etd-11182005-180342

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Coonrod, Elaine Elizabeth
URN etd-11182005-180342
Title Theory of mind, executive function, and social skills in high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorders
Degree PhD
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Professor Wendy L. Stone Committee Chair
Professor Doris Wossum Committee Member
Professor F. Joseph Mc Laughlin Committee Member
Professor J. R. Newbrough Committee Member
Professor Patti van Eys Committee Member
  • nonverbal IQ
  • social skills
  • executive function
  • theory of mind
  • autism
Date of Defense 2005-09-19
Availability unrestricted
One very striking feature of high-functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is the severity of their social impairment despite average or above average intelligence and good outcome in academics. Although there have been strong theoretical arguments linking theory of mind (ToM) deficits to the social impairments seen in ASD, empirical evidence has been equivocal. Interestingly, some researchers have suggested that performance on ToM tasks might relate only to those social skills that require understanding mental states, termed Interactive social skills, but not to more routinized social skills, termed Active social skills. However, results of previous research indicate that some individuals who pass ToM tasks exhibit Interactive social skills as poor as those who fail ToM tasks. The purpose of this study was to examine the hypothesis that additional cognitive deficits in the area of executive function explain the inconsistent relation between ToM and social skills in high-functioning individuals with ASD. Results indicated that executive function and Nonverbal IQ, rather than ToM, were significant predictors of social skills. Future research examining the relation between nonverbal cognitive skills and social-perceptual abilities may provide more insight into the development and remediation of social skills deficits in high-functioning individuals with ASD.
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