Sunday, April 6, 2014

Research on Visual Perspective Taking (VPT) and Theory of Mind (ToM)

TATTS is by no means an academic research project.  However, given our emphasis on helping kids with autism improve their perspective taking skills, we try to understand the current thinking around the issues of autism and it's impact on perspective taking.  Two key concepts that much of the research in this area evaluate are Visual Perspective Taking (VPT) and Theory of Mind (ToM).  Here are definitions:

  • Visual Perspective Taking - Level 1 is the ability to understand that other people have a different line of sight to ourselves
  • Visual Perspective Taking - Level 2 is the understanding that two people viewing the same item from different points in space may see different things
  • Theory of Mind - the ability to attribute mental states such as beliefs, intents, desires, knowledge, etc. to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one's own.

Here is a link to a review of 13 recent studies that focus on the topic of autism and its impact on perspective taking.  Not exactly light reading but excellent nonetheless. 

The review concludes that researchers need to "...tease apart impairments in the spatial demands of a task vs. the social."  For all of us involved with autism, that sure sounds familiar.  The research review also states that a whole lot more research is needed "The recommendations set out in this review provide a strong motivation for investigating VPT in autism and shed light on why findings so far are inconsistent."  Maybe the TATTS project's use of drones to gather spatial data, our manipulation of that data, and our practicing of social skills throughout can give some of these researchers new insights!