Children with autism's perception and understanding of ambiguous figures: Evidence for pictorial metarepresentation, a research note

M.C. Wimmer, M.J. Doherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


A large body of autism research over the last 20 years has shown that people with autism have difficulties understanding mental states. This has been conceived of as a metarepresentational deficit. An open question is whether people with autism's metarepresentational deficit is limited to the mental domain. This research explores individuals with autism's understanding of the representational nature of pictures. With the use of ambiguous figures, where a single stimulus is capable of representing two distinct referents, we compared metarepresentational abilities in the pictorial and mental domains and the perception of pictorial ambiguity. Our findings indicate that individuals with autism are impaired in mental metarepresentation but not in pictorial metarepresentation. These findings suggest that children with autism understand the representational nature of pictures. We conclude that children with autism's understanding of the representational nature of pictures is in advance of their metarepresentational understanding of mind. Their perception of figure ambiguity is comparable to the typical population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-641
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010

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