ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202303.0252.v1
Subject: Social Sciences, Education Keywords: false belief; Williams syndrome; theory of mind; social cognition
Online: 14 March 2023 (09:02:41 CET)
Background: People with Williams syndrome (WS) are characterized with hypersociability, fluency in languages, and advantageous face-processing skills, leading to the proposal of a social module. Previous studies on the mentalizing abilities of people with WS using two-dimensional pictures and mindreading from eyes, including normal-like, delayed, and deviant behaviors, have yielded mixed results. This study thus examined the mentalizing ability of people with WS through structured computerized animations of false belief tasks to investigate whether inferences about other people’s minds can be improved in this population. Method: Participants were shown animations with unexpected location and content changes. After viewing each animation, participants had to answer four types of questions: character identification, reality, memory, and false belief. Their responses were recorded and analyzed. Results: Comprehension of false belief was observed in 4-year-old healthy children, whereas children with WS showed unsuccessful comprehension of false belief (until they attained a mental age of 5.3 years), suggesting an improvement in theory of mind resulting from viewing structured computerized animations. This age is earlier than that reported by previous studies for using theory of mind to pass false belief tests (8.5 years old), even challenging the age at which individuals failed to pass the tests (12.10 years old). Conclusions: Structured computerized animations enhanced the mentalizing ability of people with WS to a certain extent. Compared to the typically developing controls, people with WS presented with a lower developmental level in processing false belief tasks. The educational implication of this study is to develop computerized social skills interventions for people with WS.