Automaticity, Attention, and theory of Mind

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Psychology and Special Education

Date of Award

Spring 2012


Although theory of mind (ToM) development is typically fully developed by age 5, ToM deficits are associated with a variety of disorders. For example, people with autism, ADHD and affective disorders often demonstrate decreased ToM performance. An inability to sustain focused attentional resources is a common factor across these disorders. Therefore, this study examined the effect of disrupting attentional resources in developmentally normal participants. Approximately 60 undergraduate students completed the 'Faces' theory of mind task, a first and second order ToM task, and the Faux Pas ToM task. Participants were randomly divided into two groups. The control group completed the tasks under normal conditions while the experimental group completed the tasks while simultaneously completing a random number generation task. Significant differences were found between the groups on total theory of mind scores, the 'Faces' task, the first and second order ToM task, and the faux pas task.


Tracy Henley

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Psychology