Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen

Infobox Scientist

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name = Simon Baron-Cohen
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residence = England
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nationality = British
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field = Psychologist
work_institutions = University of Cambridge
alma_mater = New College, Oxford University College London King's College London
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known_for = Autism research
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Simon Baron-Cohen is a professor of developmental psychopathology in the departments of psychiatry and experimental psychology, a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom. [ [ ARC people: Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director.] Autism Research Centre. Retrieved on 2008-02-16.] He is best known for his work on autism, including his early theory that autism involves degrees of 'mindblindness' (or delays in the development of theory of mind), and his later theory that autism is an extreme form of the 'male brain', which involved a reconceptualization of typical psychological sex differences in terms of empathy and systemizing.


Baron-Cohen earned degrees in Human Sciences from New College, Oxford, a PhD in Psychology from University College London, and an M.Phil. in Clinical Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London.

Research areas

Baron-Cohen published "Does the autistic child have a 'theory of mind'?" in 1985 with autism researchers Uta Frith and Alan Leslie. [cite journal |author=Baron-Cohen S, Leslie AM, Frith U|title=Does the autistic child have a 'theory of mind'? |journal=Cognition |volume=21 |issue=1 |pages=37–46 |year=1985 |doi=10.1016/0010-0277(85)90022-8 |pmid=2934210 |url= |format = PDF | accessdate=2008-02-16] It proposed that children with autism show social and communication difficulties as a result of a delay in the development of a theory of mind.

In his 1995 book "Mindblindness" (MIT Press), he suggested that an individual's theory of mind depends on a set of brain mechanisms that develop in early childhood, including the eye direction detector (EDD), the shared attention mechanism (SAM), and the intentionality detector (ID). Baron-Cohen singled out SAM as a key precursor to theory of mind, giving rise to the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT). [ [ CHAT - The Checklist for Autism In Toddlers.] University of Washington. Retrieved on 2008-02-16.]

Baron-Cohen's theory, outlined in his 2003 book "The Essential Difference" (Penguin/Basic Books), attempted to link the fields of typical sex differences in psychology with the field of autism. He proposed that on average, females develop faster in empathy and on average males develop faster in systemizing. People with autism, he argued, show an extreme of the typical male profile in having a disability in empathy alongside intact or even superior systemizing.

In his 2005 book "Prenatal Testosterone in Mind" (MIT Press), Baron-Cohen demonstrated that foetal testosterone (FT) levels (measured in the amniotic fluid) inversely predict social behaviour (e.g., eye contact at 12 months), language development (e.g., vocabulary size at 24 months), quality of social relationships at 4 years, and empathy at 8 years. FT levels also positively predict systemizing at 8 years. A single biological mechanism (FT) thus appears to influence both empathy and systemizing, in opposite ways. He is testing if autism is associated with elevated FT.

In addition to basic research into the biomedical causes of autism, Baron-Cohen and his colleagues have produced practical tools for people with autism, including "Mind Reading: An Interactive Guide to Human Emotions", [ [ Mind Reading.] Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Retrieved on 2008-02-16.] which is educational software for helping to improve emotion-recognition skills. More recently, he created "The Transporters", [ [ Home page.] The Transporters. Retrieved on 2008-02-16.] a children's animation series. The series superimposed real human faces showing emotions onto animated vehicles, as a way of harnessing the strong interest in systems (vehicles being an example of a system) that even preschoolers with autism show, to help make faces and emotional expressions more autism-friendly and predictable.

Baron-Cohen has also done research on synesthesia, a neurological disorder involving the "crossing" of sensory wiring in the mind.

Personal life

Simon Baron-Cohen's son is the independent film maker Sam Baron. His brother is film director Ash Baron Cohen, and his first cousins are Erran Baron Cohen, composer and musician, and Sacha Baron Cohen, [ [ Biography for Sacha Baron Cohen.] IMDb. Retrieved on 2008-02-16.] the actor and comedian famous for his characters Borat and Ali G. His maternal grandfather's brother was Robert Greenblatt, professor of endocrinology at the Medical College of Georgia, whose research led to the development of the oral contraceptive pill. [Mahesh, Virenda B. [ Robert B. Greenblatt (1906-1987).] The New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2006-02-10. Retrieved on 2008-02-16.]

In April 2008 he was a guest on "Private Passions", the biographical music discussion programme hosted by Michael Berkeley on BBC Radio 3. [ [ Radio 3: "Private Passions"] .]

elected publications


Simon Baron-Cohen has written five books, including "Mindblindness" (1995) and "The Essential Difference: Male and Female Brains and the Truth About Autism" (2003). He has edited three books, including "Understanding Other Minds" (1993), with a second edition in 2001. Baron-Cohen has also studied synaesthesia, and has edited a book on it: "Synaesthesia: Classic and contemporary readings" (1997).



ee also

* Autism Spectrum Quotient
* Sally-Anne test


External links

* [,3858,4649492-111414,00.html They just can't help it] , Simon Baron-Cohen, The Guardian (17 April 2003)
* [ The Male Condition] , Simon Baron-Cohen, The New York Times Op-Ed Section, (8 August 2005)
* [ The Assortative Mating Theory: A Talk with Simon Baron-Cohen] , Edge Foundation discussion, 2005
* [ How Does Your Mind Work] - Brain-function psychological tests developed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelwright, and their team.
* [ Simon Baron-Cohen Discusses Autism] - Austim Presentation in Irvine California, USA

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