Second-order false beliefs and linguistic recursion in autism spectrum disorder

Irina Polyanskaya, Inge-Marie Eigsti*, Torben Braüner, Patrick Rowan Blackburn

*Corresponding author

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


This study investigates the role of recursive language and working memory (WM) in second-order false belief skills in Danish-speaking children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD; n = 62; 8 females) and typical development (n = 41; 15 females), ages 6–16. Second-order false belief skills correlated with receptive grammar, vocabulary, and age; sentential complement production predicted second-order false beliefs, controlling for age, receptive grammar and WM. Regressions showed that second-order false belief was associated with age across groups, but with sentential complements in the ASD group only. Second-order false belief skills improved in children who received training in either recursive phrases (d = 0.21) or WM (d = 0.74), compared to an active control group. Results suggest that false belief skills are entwined with both linguistic and executive functions.
TidsskriftJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Udgave nummer9
Sider (fra-til)3991-4006
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - sep. 2022


  • Compositional semantics
  • Second-order false belief
  • Sentential complementation
  • Theory of mind
  • Verbal mediation

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