Identity of my Thesis – As of June 3, 2015

One of the things that Paul Heilker and Melanie Yergeau say in their article “Autism and Rhetoric” is autistics use their own form of rhetoric (similar to different styles of rhetoric used in different parts of the world).  The primary example I can think of in

Rhetoric ties to language if you look at Barry Brummett who says that rhetoric creates language and language creates meaning.  If, in fact, autistics use their own form of rhetoric, then it would stand that they use a unique version of language as well (different from language used by a neurotypical possibly by a slight amount ranging to a huge amount) because rhetoric creates language.

If the neurotypical use of language is used to test theory of mind and autistics use their own style of rhetoric, and therefore, language, then it would stand that autistics would fail theory of mind tests.

But this is based on the assumption that language impacts theory of mind tests, which Simon Baron-Cohen, Uta Frith, Alan M. Leslie, and the other big theory of mind people all say that it does not.  They say that it is not because they have run “non-verbal” theory of mind tests that (surprise, surprise) still used language.  Not only that, but they also tested one extra group along with autistics and normal children, children with a specific language impairment (SLI).  The SLI children were able to pass the “non-verbal” theory of mind test, but again, autistic children were not.  Therefore, it is not the language impairment that caused the failure in the theory of mind test, it was something else.  They used this to prove that language does not impact theory of mind.

But, this is based on the assumption that autistic’s have a language impairment.  Remember what creates language?  Rhetoric, and if autistics use their own style of rhetoric, then they use their own style of language that may range from infinitesimally (extremely tiny) different from neurotypical language to extremely different from neurotypical language.

Now, this is based on the assumption that autistics use their own rhetoric, and, if they do, is there any way to prove that?  I’m not sure if there is.  But, I want to close this out with one final thought that I had.  If autistics use their own style of language, then it would reason that others with diverse language/rhetoric use would also fail the theory of mind test.

Shahaeian et al. [2011] recruited 135 Australian and Iranian children ages 3-6 years…These researchers found that, on average, both nationalities passed the same number of tasks, but for three types of tasks–FB [false belief], Diverse Beliefs, Knowledge Access–the two groups differed significantly on percent correct. Tardif et al. [2004] tested Cantonese- and
Mandarin-speaking Chinese children, ages 3—5 years, using three
PB tasks: change in location (the Sally—Anne paradigm), the
deceptive object task (A pen that looks like a lollipop: what is it
really?); and an unexpected contents task (a candybox that contains
pencils instead). Results again show an expected age effect: Older
children from both language groups perform better than younger
ones. However, Tardif et al. [2004] also noted that Cantonese
children performed significantly better on the deceptive object
task than did same-aged English-speaking children reported by
Gopnik and Astington [1988]. Kobayashi et al. [2007] approached
the cultural dissimilarity question from a different perspective.
These researchers used fl\/IRI to examine neural correlates in
12 monolingual American and 12 bilingual Iapanese children,
ages 8—11 years, on both ToM and non-ToM tasks, and found
significant differences in brain function between groups for both
sets of tasks. Kobayashi et al. [2007] concluded there were both
language- and culture-dependent neural bases for ToM develop-
ment.

(Fisch 2470)

Now, for the quick version: Australian and Iranian children were both tested.  They passed the same number of tests, but three of the tests showed different results: one cultural group failed it, the other cultural group passed it.  This could be because of the language or the culture or both.

Cantonese- and Mandarin-speaking Chinese children were given three tests.  The Cantonese children performed better on one of the tests than English-speaking children from a report the researchers cited.

A group of researchers did an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance image) on monolingual American and bilingual Japanese children.  There were significant differences in the brain functions for both of the theory of mind tests they gave.  The researchers concluded that “there were both language- and culture-dependent neural bases for ToM development.

So, while it isn’t definitive proof that language and culture of autistics affects the theory of mind tests, it does show that theory of mind tests are not as simple as they seem.  In fact, I would almost challenge if they test what they say theory of mind is.  So, now, I am going to go back to find out why people think the false belief tests are the best way to assess theory of mind.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.


Fisch, Gene S.  “Autism and Epistemology IV: Does Autism Need a Theory of Mind?” American Journal of Medical Genetics 161.10 (Oct 2013): 2464-2480. EBSCO. Web. 26 Mar 2015.

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