The Understanding of Intentions, Desires and Beliefs in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Evelien Broekhof, Lizet Ketelaar, Lex Stockmann, Annette van Zijp, Marieke G.N. Bos, Carolien Rieffe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study provides a comprehensive picture of three core elements (Intentions, Desires, Beliefs) of Theory of Mind (ToM) in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD, n = 63, Mage = 55 months) and typically developing children (TD, n = 69, Mage = 54 months). Outcomes showed that ASD and TD children understood intentional actions equally well. Yet, children with ASD lacked the social interest to share intentions. Additionally, children with ASD had more difficulties in understanding others’ desires and beliefs compared to their TD peers. It is discussed whether the ToM delay seen in children with ASD is a motivational or a conceptual problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2035-2045
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • Motivation
  • Pre-school children
  • Social behavior
  • Social cognition

Cite this