Objectives: The current study examined whether children with ASD show action anticipation in a non-verbal false belief test.
Methods: We presented video stimuli of an actor watching an object hidden in a box. The object was then displaced while the actor was looking away. We recorded children's eye movement with an eye-tracking device while they watched the subsequent action and coded whether they spontaneously anticipated the model's behaviour that could only have been predicted based on her false belief. We also administered a standard verbal false belief task and examined the relation between verbal and non-verbal false belief tasks both in typically developing children and in children with ASD.
Results: In the non-verbal false belief task, although typically developing children correctly anticipated the action, children with ASD failed to show such action anticipation. The performance in the non-verbal false belief task positively correlated with that of the standard false belief task in typically developing children. In contrast, these two tasks were not correlated with each other in children with ASD.
Conclusions: The results suggest that children with ASD have an inherent impairment in false belief attribution, which is independent of their verbal ability.