Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 45, Issue 7, pp 2243–2251 | Cite as

Brief Report: Theory of Mind, Relational Reasoning, and Social Responsiveness in Children With and Without Autism: Demonstration of Feasibility for a Larger-Scale Study

  • John R. PruettJr.
  • Sridhar Kandala
  • Steven E. Petersen
  • Daniel J. Povinelli
Brief Report


Understanding the underpinnings of social responsiveness and theory of mind (ToM) will enhance our knowledge of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We hypothesize that higher-order relational reasoning (higher-order RR: reasoning necessitating integration of relationships among multiple variables) is necessary but not sufficient for ToM, and that social responsiveness varies independently of higher-order RR. A pilot experiment tested these hypotheses in n = 17 children, 3–14, with and without ASD. No child failing 2nd-order RR passed a false belief ToM test. Contrary to prediction, Social Responsiveness Scale scores did correlate with 2nd-order RR performance, likely due to sample characteristics. It is feasible to translate this comparative cognition-inspired line of inquiry for full-scale studies of ToM, higher-order RR, and social responsiveness in ASD.


Theory of mind Relational reasoning Analogical reasoning Social responsiveness Autism Cognition 



We would like to thank Derek C. Penn, Keith Holyoak, John N. Constantino, Dorothy K. Grange, Lawrence McEvoy, and Victoria Sorrentino for their significant contributions to this work. Britt Gott assisted with manuscript preparation. Funding included K12 EY016336 (Pruett), JSMF Centennial Fellowship (Povinelli), and The Drs. John R. (Sr.) and Patricia O. Pruett Fund (for research in Theory of Mind and for undergraduate training).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • John R. PruettJr.
    • 1
  • Sridhar Kandala
    • 1
  • Steven E. Petersen
    • 2
    • 3
  • Daniel J. Povinelli
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of LouisianaLafayetteUSA

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