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"Mindreading" as a gatekeeper in development: Neurotypical and Autistic pathways to learning

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Published on Oct 5, 2014

Professor Francesca Happé FBA gives the Joint British Academy/British Psychological Society Lecture.

It was held on Tuesday 23 September 2014 at the British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

Chaired by: Professor Margaret Snowling FMedSci FBA, University of Oxford

Typically-developing children show a precocious ability to track what others are thinking, referred to as ‘theory of mind’ or ‘mentalising’. Children with autism, by contrast, struggle with this intuitive mind-reading. Mind-blindness may explain social and communication difficulties in autism; why lying doesn’t come naturally, and jokes and irony are taken literally. This talk will explore the downstream or developmental effects of mentalizing, which I will argue is a gatekeeper function that opens doors in typical development. Obligatory mentalising in typical development and mindblindness in autism lead to very different learning environments, arguably each having both positive and negative aspects.

About the speaker:
Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Director of the MRC SGDP Centre, King's College London, Francesca Happé’s research focuses on autism spectrum conditions. She has explored the nature of social understanding in a/typical development and non-social assets in autism. She has received the BPS Spearman Medal, the EPS Prize and the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award. She is President of the International Society for Autism Research.

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