Date of Completion

Spring 4-28-2023

Thesis Advisor(s)

James Chrobak

Honors Major

Psychological Sciences


Theory of Mind (ToM) includes the ability to attribute mental states (e.g., “happy”, “confused”) to oneself and others (Wimmer & Perner, 1983). Typically developing (TD) children demonstrate high performance on ToM tasks, while children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may encounter difficulties with ToM (Peterson et al., 2005). The role of language in ToM development is unclear, as Perner et al. (1998) claimed that school-age children’s language levels did not impact their ToM ability but did not formally assess language. However, de Villiers and Pyers (2002) reported relationships between ToM and complex syntax. The current study elaborates on the existing literature by exploring the relationship between parent and participant language input to participant ToM ability. The participants of this study consist of 13 autistic teens and 19 typically developing teens. Across a two-day home visit, participants completed narrative elicitation tasks, ToM first and second-order false belief tasks, and the Aliens Categorization Game with their parent. The results of this study found that participants with greater language ability scored higher on ToM tasks. The findings of this study also provide insight into the psychosocial use of parent language and how that relates to ToM ability. The present study also confirms the use of text analysis programs like LIWC-22 to further elucidate the relationship between language and ToM.