Thinking About You…Thinking About Me… Thinking About Traits and Social Cognition

Date

2017-12

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Abstract

Adults in the general population have been shown to struggle with social perspective taking, also known as theory of mind (ToM). Research has struggled to identify aspects of cognition that explain ToM development in adult populations. One promising area of study relates to the discovery that personality traits have considerable explanatory power in regard to cognitive ability, as presumably a person’s preferences affect their subsequent skill development. In order to better understand adult ToM variance, an investigation of personality traits and their relation to ToM ability was conducted. In an effort to find an appropriate model, traits related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a disorder characterized by ToM deficits, were explored. This study analyzed responses of 359 participants drawn from a university sample using an online assessment platform. Participants’ ToM was tested using the Faux Pas Recognition Test (FPT), and ASD related traits were identified using the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). All traits were entered in a linear regression to determine which were predictive of ToM performance. Two traits, Communication and Imagination, were found to be significantly predictive of ToM ability in the general population. The literature suggests that both traits underlie ToM at multiple points in development. The ToM difficulties in the general population are significantly related to challenges understanding communicative intent, as well as problems simulating lived experiences of others. Future research could focus on exploring the role of personal self-efficacy in communication and imagination during ToM development, and the relation between self-efficacy and ASD.

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Keywords

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Theory of mind

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