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Type of Measure: There are few tests that can measure if an adult with normal intelligence may have mild deficits in social understanding. In neurodevelopmental conditions, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, deficits in social cognitition may be camoflauged as a result of learning compensatory strategies. It is therefore crucial to identify and develop an adult test of social sensitivity, which was address by Baron-Cohen, Jolliffe, Mortimore, and Robertson (1997) via the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” Test - Revised (Eyes Test).

In this test, participants are presented with a series of 36 photographs of the eye-region of the face of different actors and actresses, and they are asked to choose which of two words best describes what the person is thinking or feeling. The Eyes Task involves theory of mind skills in the sense that the subject has to understand mental state terms and match them to faces (or parts of faces, in this case). This test was conceived as a test of how well participants can put themselves into the mind of a person, and “tune in” to their mental state. Participants are provided with a glossary of words and must effectively distiguinsh the correct target word from three close imposters on each trial.

Target Population: Adults with normal intelligence

Measurement properties and previous use: The psychometric properties of the original version of the Eyes Test was examined by Baron-Cohen, Jolliffe, Mortimore, and Robertson (1997) using three groups: 1) adults with autism or Asperger Syndrome (AS) (n=16), 2) normal adults (n=50 age-matched males and females), and 3) a clinical control group (i.e., age-matched adults with Tourette Syndrome, n=10).

In order to validate the Eyes Task as a theory of mind task, subjects in the two clinical groups were also tested on Happé’s (1994) Strange Stories. Performance on the Eyes Task was expected to correlate with performance on Happé’s strange stories. Finally, to demonstrate that performance on the Eyes Test was not attributable to other factors, participants were administered two control tasks, the Gender Recognition Task (looking at the same set of eyes, but identifying the gender of each person in the photograph) and the Basic Emotion Recognition Task (judging photographs of whole faces displayiing basic emotions).

Findings from this study indicated that adults with autism or AS, despite being of normal or above average IQ, were impaired on the Eyes Test. The authors interpreted the results as providing experimental evidence for subtle theory of mind deficits in individuals with autism or AS, at later points in development and at higher points on the IQ continuum than had been previously demonstrated. The authors justified this conclusion using four points. First, the target words of the Eyes Test are mental state terms. Secondly, these are not just emotion terms, but include terms describing cognitive mental states, which suggests this is more than just an emotion perception test. Thirdly, the pattern of results from the Eyes Task mirrored the pattern of performance on the Happé Strange Stories - an existing advanced theory of mind task. Finally, the deficit on the Eyes Task was not mirrored on the two control tasks, suggesting that the poor performance by subjects with autism or AS was not due to the stimuli being eyes, or to a deficit in extracting social information from minimal cues, or to a subtle perceptual deficit, or to basic emotion recognition.

In 2001, the Revised Eyes Test was administered to a group of adults with AS or HFA (N=15) and again discriminated these from a large number of controls (N=239) drawn from different samples (Baron-Cohen, Wheelright, Hill, Raste, & Plumb, 2001).

The Revised Eyes Test was designed to be a more sensitive measure of adult social intelligence. As intended, findings from the earlier study were not only replicated, but the modifications from the original version also led to normal performance being significantly below ceiling, which was important if the test was to do more than discriminate extreme performance and instead detect meaningful individual differences

There was no significant correlation between IQ and the Eyes Test suggesting this is independent of general (nonsocial) intelligence. In both samples, performance on the Eyes Test was inversely correlated with performance on the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), suggesting that both measure degrees of autistic traits across the notional spectrum. The AQ is not diagnostic, but may serve as a useful instrument for quantifying the extent of an individual’s caseness in terms of AS/high functioning autism.

Languages: Simplified Chinese, Danske, Español, Español (Argentina), Deutsch, Hellenes, Italiano, Japanese, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Nederlands, Norwegian, Farsi, Polski, Português, Português (Brasil), Romanian, Serbian, Slovene, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish

Authors and Citation:

Baron‐Cohen, S., Jolliffe, T., Mortimore, C., & Robertson, M. (1997). Another advanced test of theory of mind: Evidence from very high functioning adults with autism or Asperger syndrome. Journal of Child psychology and Psychiatry, 38(7), 813-822.

Baron‐Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y., & Plumb, I. (2001). The “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test revised version: A study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high‐functioning autism. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, 42(2), 241-251.

Licence: via Autism Research Centre You are welcome to download these tests provided that they are used for genuine research purposes, and provided due acknowledgement of ARC as the source is given.

Link to measure: Eyes Test

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