If you’re attending this weekend’s Learning and the Brain conference, you’ll have many opportunities to learn more about autism. In particular, you’ll hear how our understanding of autism gives us a broader understanding of human brains, cognition, and personality.
In this video, professor Simon Baron-Cohen discusses the importance of “joint attention” for early diagnosis of autism.
As you’ll see, joint attention occurs when the pre-verbal child points or looks at an object. Crucially, the child also checks to see if the parent is also looking. (The key passage begins at about 1:15 on the video.)
If you’re interested in joint attention, and especially its role in human evolution, I highly recommend Michael Tomasello’s book The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. In it, Tomasello does a masterly job sleuthing through primate behavior to discover uniquely human traits.