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Language Can Obscure as Well as Facilitate Apparent-Theory of Mind Performance: Part 2—The Case of Dyslexia in Adulthood

Wright, Barlow C.; Wright, Bernice A. L.


Barlow C. Wright


Many studies imply causal links between linguistic competencies and Theory of Mind (ToM). But despite Dyslexia being a prime example of linguistic deficits, studies on whether it is related to ToM have been relatively unforthcoming. In the first of 2 studies (N = 89), independently-diagnosed dyslexic adults and non-dyslexic adults were presented with false-belief vignettes via computer, answering 4 types of question (Factual, Inference, 1st-order ToM & 2nd-order ToM). Dyslexia related to lower false-belief scores. Study 2 (N = 93) replicated this result with a non-computer-based variant on the false-belief task. We considered the possibility that the apparent-issue with ToM is caused by processing demands more associated to domains of cognition such as language, than to ToM itself. Addressing this possibility, study 2 additionally utilised the ToM30Q questionnaire, designed largely to circumvent issues related to language and memory. Principal-Components analysis extracted 4 factors, 2 capturing perceptual/representational ToM, and the other 2 capturing affective components related to ToM. The ToM30Q was validated via its associations to a published measure of empathy, replication of the female gender advantage over males, and for one factor from the ToM30Q there was a correlation with an existing published index of ToM. However, when we considered the performance of dyslexic and non-dyslexic participants using the ToM30Q, we found absolutely no difference between them. The contrasting findings from our 2 studies here, arguably offer the first experimental evidence with adults, that there is in fact no ToM deficit in dyslexia. Additionally, this finding raises the possibility that some other groups considered in some sense atypical, failed ToM tasks, not because they actually have a ToM deficit at all, but rather because they are asked to reveal their ToM competence through cognitive domains, such as language and memory.


Wright, B. C., & Wright, B. A. L. (2021). Language Can Obscure as Well as Facilitate Apparent-Theory of Mind Performance: Part 2—The Case of Dyslexia in Adulthood. Frontiers in psychology Frontiers Research Foundation, 12, Article 621457.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 6, 2021
Online Publication Date Jun 24, 2021
Publication Date Jun 24, 2021
Deposit Date Jun 24, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Frontiers in Psychology
Print ISSN 1664-1078
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Article Number 621457
Keywords Adults; Dyslexia; Language; Theory of mind; Working memory
Public URL


Published article (555 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2021 Wright and Wright. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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