British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 28 Issue 2 (June 2010), Pages 219-504

The representational status of pretence: Evidence from typical development and autism (pages 239-254)

The question of whether understanding pretend play requires meta‐representational skill was examined among typically developing children and individuals with autism. Participants were presented with closely equated true and false pretence trials in which they had to judge a protagonist's pretend reading of a situation, which either matched or differed from their own. Results showed that individuals' theory of mind abilities determined their performance on false, but not true, pretence trials. These findings imply that meta‐representation is involved when an individual has to make sense of a pretend state of mind that differs from their own, but, crucially, they also show that pretend play can often be understood without meta‐representational competence.

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