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January 2022

Intention and preference in a 3-year-old girl with Rett syndrome

Author(s): Umansky, R., Marcy, S., Repacholi, B.

Journal/Book: J Applied Dev Psychology. 1996; 17: 355 Chestnut St, Norwood, NJ 07648. Ablex Publ Corp. 69-84.

Abstract: The loss of instrumental reaching and diminished social engagement are primary symptoms of Rett syndrome. Stereotypic rhythmicities replace flexible behavior, diminishing potential evidence for clear attribution of the mental states of desire, preference, and especially intention. As part of an experimental home intervention program, a 5-year-old girl with Rett syndrome was exposed to a computer-controlled video image of a face that responded differentially to two buttons as a function of position and time. The specific contingency changed from minute to minute requiring a change in button selection in order to obtain a consistent (''equifinal'') outcome, Over the course of 8 months, 150 5-min sessions were recorded. The girl's performance on this task provides strong evidence of a retained capacity to use both arms in a differentiated manner and to attentively modulate behavior in response to a varying contingency. The data also support the claim that this child was capable of displaying a simplified example of Heider's formal criteria for the mental states of ''preference'' and ''intention.''

Note: Article JS Watson, Univ Calif Berkeley, Dept Psychol, Berkeley, CA 94705 USA


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