Early Signs of Autism: “Joint Attention”

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.


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