"Making it explicit" makes a difference: Evidence for a dissociation of spontaneous and intentional level 1 perspective taking in high-functioning autism

Sarah Schwarzkopf, Leonhard Schilbach, Kai Vogeley, Bert Timmermans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


The ability of perspective taking is a fundamental aspect of social cognition. The ability to decide, what another person can or cannot see is referred to as "level 1 perspective taking". This is thought to be a process that we can make use of intentionally, but which also takes place spontaneously. Autism is characterized by impairments of social interaction, which are thought to be related to deficits in implicit rather than explicit perspective taking. In order to assess both levels of processing with regard to perspective taking, we employed an established task in patients and controls. Our results demonstrate that both groups engage in spontaneous level 1 perspective taking. In contrast to controls, however, patients reacted slower, if they had to verify the other’s as compared to their own perspective, which shows that HFA participants have selective difficulties in explicit, but not implicit, level 1 perspective taking. These findings demonstrate that while spontaneous level 1 perspective taking appears to be intact in autism, this ability is impaired in patients when used explicitly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-354
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014



  • Visuospatial level 1 perspective taking
  • high-functioning autism
  • Asperger syndrome
  • attention shift
  • implicit processing

Cite this