Theory of Mind Development in School Children with autism spectrum disorders



We present the results of an empirical study that aimed at a deeper understanding of mental states using the concept of theory of mind (ToM). A system-level approach to the study of ToM is being developed. Using a standardized version of F. Happé’s Strange Stories test we conducted a comparative study on children from the normative group (N=54) and high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorders (N=43). Both groups were divided into subgroups of 7—11 and 12—16 years old. Based on the data obtained, emotional-figurative, perceptual-figurative, and conceptual levels of representation development in the ToM system were identified. We traced the age-related dynamics of the representations in the ToM system, which is normally associated with a change in its cognitive mechanisms, the emergence of the leading level in the organization of a representative system, and the formation of conceptual representations. The disordered development of ToM in ASD children arises due to the disturbances of ToM representations differentiation, integrative processes degradation, and development asynchrony.

General Information

Keywords: theory of mind, representation, autism spectrum disorder, social perception, cognitive mechanisms, level model.

Journal rubric: Empirical Researches


For citation: Turevskaya R.A., Plenskovskaya A.A. Theory of Mind Development in School Children with autism spectrum disorders . Konsul'tativnaya psikhologiya i psikhoterapiya = Counseling Psychology and Psychotherapy, 2021. Vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 112–131. DOI: 10.17759/cpp.2021290107. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Rita A. Turevskaya, PhD in Psychology, PhD Рrofessor, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Arina A. Plenskovskaya, clinical psychologist, Non-Profit Organization “Turrion”, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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