Higher order Theory of Mind (test yourself)

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How did you do on the Theory of Mind questions?
They were all confusing. 14%  14%  [ 14 ]
I could do the lower order questions, but I couldn't do the 4th order ones. 14%  14%  [ 14 ]
They were all doable. 72%  72%  [ 72 ]
Total votes : 100

League_Girl
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18 Jan 2011, 2:24 pm

I noticed it got harder and harder for TOM but I am not sure if I got all of them right, I had to start making guesses. There was no answer key.
I found the stories easy to follow.


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18 Jan 2011, 3:00 pm

anbuend wrote:
It's dishonest. Completely dishonest and I've been calling it dishonest for a long time.

It's already shown that the biggest reason that autistic children do badly on the basic ToM tests is language. They involve some of the hardest language constructions in the English language. Given a non-language ToM test, autistic children either do as well as, or even slightly outperform, nonautistic children.


Agreed! In addition to the language a theoretical questioning is something else than understanding ToM in a natural surrounding.

Like somebody else has said; you are aware that this is a test.
Also language and the way of telling the story can be disturbing, because it is not matching with own way of thinking.

The stories are only black letters on a white background after all, so that I need to really picture it to remember it. Its like I receive too little information because it is only written words, and when we are talking about ToM; in reality it is more than the simple information you get from texts like these.



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18 Jan 2011, 4:51 pm

It looks like people aren't having much trouble with this, according to the poll. Does anyone want to see what answers I got?



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18 Jan 2011, 9:11 pm

theexternvoid wrote:
I have trouble with the writing. Too many British-isms. Over here in America... A mum is a flower, not a mother. "Spelt" is a grain, not the past tense of "spell." (Sounds like the King James Bible!) And how can chocolate spoil a cup of tea? Luckily I know it really meant dinner, but it still distracts me to read stuff like that, need to stop my train of thought and think twice about what it means.

And some of the grammer! It's "have gotten," not "have got." It's "Mrs. Brown," not "Mrs Brown." And "Class 4 was," not "Class 4 were" since there is only one class and thus the verb should be singular, not plural. Or are these also British-isms? :(


Exactly. Other than being distracted by that stuff, it was easy. Although I do find the "he thought, she thought, he knew" wording to be a little confusing. Is that supposed to be the point? I don't really know anything about the theory of mind stuff except that I'm not supposed to be good at it lol.



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18 Jan 2011, 9:59 pm

They seemed like more reading comprehension tests than ToM. My reading comprehension is poor. My mind is coated with Teflon and what I read slips off almost immediately. The problems I had were more executive dysfunction based, I think, trying to sort out all the "he thought she thought he knew." etc. :?



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18 Jan 2011, 10:36 pm

grad_girl wrote:
It looks like people aren't having much trouble with this, according to the poll. Does anyone want to see what answers I got?



Yes yes yes. I assume your answers are correct?


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19 Jan 2011, 2:24 am

Theory of mind is something I struggled with as a kid. What people don't understand is, just because you have difficulties in that area as a kid doesn't mean you are the same as an adult with life experience. You just don't have it instinctively but can develop it.



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19 Jan 2011, 2:41 am

I'd be willing to vouch for my answers! And it seems that most people found the questions doable, so mistakes will be caught. I'm only going to post the answers to the questions marked as Theory of Mind, of course...

Story 1 (Bobby's Chocolate Bars)

ToM Level 0: a) Bobby's favorite thing in the world is chocolate.
ToM Level 1: b) Bobby thinks his chocolate is in his cupboard.

Story 2 (Mum's Birthday)

ToM Level 4: a) Ben thinks that Anna believes that he knows that Mum wants perfume for her birthday.
ToM Level 1: b) Anna knows Ben has bought mum some flowers.

Story 3 (The Video Dilemma)

ToM Level 0: a) Sarah likes cartoons better than adventure films.
ToM Level 4: b) Sarah hoped that Joe would believe that she knew what Mrs Brown wanted.

Story 4 (The School Football Team)

ToM Level 3: b) The manager knows that Johnny doesn’t know that he wants him to be on the team.
ToM Level 2: a) Johnny doesn’t know that the manager wants both him and Bob on the team.

Story 5 (The Test)

ToM Level 2: a) Mrs Smith thought that Kirsty wanted to do well on the test.
ToM Level 3: a) James thinks that Mrs Smith believes that he knows how to spell ‘balloon’.

Alright, here they are! Anyone have any questions about why some of them work, or any corrections to my answer scheme?



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19 Jan 2011, 3:07 am

Those were my answers too. It's not meant to be confusing, it's written for 10 and 11 year olds.
I struggled a bit with the ToM questions in the 3rd and 4th exercises.


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19 Jan 2011, 4:04 am

TPE2 wrote:
My main difficulty was to follow the stories.

However, the fact that we know that we are solving "theory of mind" questions could distort the results.


anbuend wrote:
It's dishonest. Completely dishonest and I've been calling it dishonest for a long time.

It's already shown that the biggest reason that autistic children do badly on the basic ToM tests is language. They involve some of the hardest language constructions in the English language. Given a non-language ToM test, autistic children either do as well as, or even slightly outperform, nonautistic children. See:

http://psych.wisc.edu/lang/pdf/Gernsbac ... odules.pdf

And before I ever knew of the above paper, I noticed that the supposed second-order, third-order, and fourth-order so-called "theory of mind" tests, are simply more and more complex language and cognitive constructions. They require a whole lot of cognitive multitasking (something most if not all autistic people are bad at) as well as a high level of language understanding (something that many autistic people are bad at).

All the researchers have done is say "see, autistic people seem to have theory of mind, and so let's find something that trips most autistic people up and call it a theory of mind task." At least that's what it looks like from my perspective. If they didn't do that intentionally, it's certainly what they did in reality. It really disgusts me too, that rather than acknowledging that most autistic people have theory of mind, they simply add more and more complex linguistic and cognitive constructs until something, anything, makes it hard for us to do the task. So then we can be said to lack theory of mind again. I hate it. And I hate that so many people buy into it despite the evidence in the other direction.

Oh, and I find them all confusing, but I know for a fact that I know that other people have minds and that other people have thoughts different than my own (therefore I have theory of mind no matter what some researcher says -- OTOH I have pretty intense receptive language and multitasking problems).


Callista wrote:
All those pronouns!! This is bad writing. Deliberately confusing. And keeping track of the characters is difficult, too. "He", "she", random names... there are no intrinsic meanings to those words! This has much more to do with how well you can keep track of people, their names, and their actions simultaneously than it has to do with what you can guess about another person's state of mind. It reminds me of those deliberately badly-written questions on the GRE...

I can do all the questions up to 4th order, but only if I treat it as a logic puzzle. It's about as difficult as solving a calculus problem.


Well, I'm glad I wasn't the only one who found the stories confusing and difficult to follow.


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19 Jan 2011, 4:09 am

One thing makes this test totally not trustable, and that is that you from the first story not can be sure that chocolate is Bobbys favorite thing in the world. (Im sorry for repeating myself). ->This is only something that the mother knows.

I believe that this way of testing ToM must either have been invented by someone with less understanding of ToM than myself, or that this is no higher order of ToM test. This is for sure a very very low order, and when I was 11 this would also be a low order test to me.



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19 Jan 2011, 4:15 am

Maje wrote:
One thing makes this test totally not trustable, and that is that you from the first story not can be sure that chocolate is Bobbys favorite thing in the world. (Im sorry for repeating myself). ->This is only something that the mother knows.

Mother knows best. :wink:

I remember when a teacher was trying to help me work out a math problem and she used an example for fractions using an orange. I said I didn't like oranges, so she said would I like cake better. I said yes and she continued on. It didn't matter what I liked, it was just used as a away to work out the answer.

Really, it doesn't matter how she knew chocolate was Bobby's favourite thing in the world, just that he liked it a lot. He kept chocolate bars in his room.


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19 Jan 2011, 4:24 am

pensieve wrote:
Maje wrote:
One thing makes this test totally not trustable, and that is that you from the first story not can be sure that chocolate is Bobbys favorite thing in the world. (Im sorry for repeating myself). ->This is only something that the mother knows.

Mother knows best. :wink:

I remember when a teacher was trying to help me work out a math problem and she used an example for fractions using an orange. I said I didn't like oranges, so she said would I like cake better. I said yes and she continued on. It didn't matter what I liked, it was just used as a away to work out the answer.

Really, it doesn't matter how she knew chocolate was Bobby's favourite thing in the world, just that he liked it a lot. He kept chocolate bars in his room.


Well , when this is a ToM test, the fact that we just have to "accept" someone's thoughts about someone elses thoughts, proves that the test is not a high level, because you shall not concider that the author might mislead you with such second-hand information.



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19 Jan 2011, 8:44 pm

Yeah, I see what you guys are saying about the first story. I think they are being a bit pedantic: the quote from the story is that "Bobby’s mum knows that chocolate is Bobby’s favorite thing in all the world," and I think they only use the word 'knows' when the opinion happens to be correct. Now, if it said that she THINKS that chocolate is Bobby's favorite thing in the world, then they might only treat it as a conjecture.

In any case, I think the later stories don't have the same kind of flaw. And I think it really is written the way it is because it's meant for kids, hence the short sentences and the black-and-white thinking.



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19 Jan 2011, 9:00 pm

I could do the first order ones but the other ones just made my head hurt.



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19 Jan 2011, 10:21 pm

I'm sorry...those were so poorly written that I could hardly get through the STORIES. Ugh.

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