Is there really no Theory of Mind deficit in autism? Part IV: Do Theory of Mind tests fail to predict empathy and emotional understanding?

In recent posts, cross-posted at, I critiqued the arguments in Gernsbacher and Yergeau’s 2019 article (“Empirical Failures of the Claim That Autistic People Lack a Theory of Mind”) that ToM tests lack empirical validity—in particular, that the original test results with autistic subjects have failed to be replicated, and that the tests themselves fail to converge on a meaningful psychological construct and fail to predict autism-related traits.

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Does the AI cheat? part 1

If an AI can be said to cheat, then yes.

I had a few Chat GPT papers turned in this semester, one of which includes a direct quote that does not exist on the page cited and probably does not exist anywhere in the cited work at all.

Sketchy, or just weird?

Update 1/8/2023

As I think about it, the issue isn’t just that the quote doesn’t exist.

The issue is that the quote contradicts what the author actually said.

I’ll get back to this later (packing now!)

Artificial intelligence: other posts

And see:
Does the AI cheat, part 1
Does the AI cheat, part 2
Does the AI cheat, part 3
Is the AI a bull**** artist?

Does technology improve student writing?

I decided to begin the new year by asking ChatGPT two questions that I broached in a long-ago blog post.

1. Should students learn touch typing?

2. Should students do multiple revisions of their papers?

On the first question, the AI chatbot replied:

Yes, it is a good idea for students to learn touch typing. Touch typing is the ability to type quickly and accurately without looking at the keyboard. It is a valuable skill to have because it allows you to focus on what you are writing rather than where to find the keys on the keyboard. It also increases your typing speed and efficiency, which can be helpful in school and in the workplace. There are many resources available online to help students learn touch typing, including typing games and typing tutorials.

And on the second question, it opened with:

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The sad legacy of Everyday Math, II

Here’s a follow-up post to my first “sad legacy of Everyday Math” post, in which I concluded by saying that

You can’t blame the mathematical deficiencies of these 4th and 5th graders on their parents: both the private school and the after school program select for parents who care about education. You can’t blame it on the kids: my kids, who clearly wanted to learn, had been admitted [to our after school program] in part based on their behavior.

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The sad legacy of everyday math

[Everyday Math, I gather, is still very much in use, and so I thought it worthwhile to recycle this old post from Out in Left Field.]

Twice this past week I saw shocking examples of the cumulative effects of Everyday Math. Last Thursday I visited a nearby private school with sliding scale tuition and a diversity of students. For years the school had used Everyday Math, but recently, with the encouragement of a friend and colleague of mine who advises schools on math curricula, they’d begun to use Singapore Math. They’re phasing it in gradually, however, and currently don’t introduce it until 4th grade. For the first few grades, like nearly every other school in Philadelphia, they use Everyday Math.

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False choices in remediation: “addition and subtraction over and over again” or Marxism and Shakespeare

I suspect the rejection of true remediation has only grown over the years since I posted this on Out in Left Field, as schools, bowing to the Common Core standards, increasingly expect nearly all students to engage with the same material based not on academic readiness, but on what year and month they happened to be born in.

Another false choice in remediation: “addition and subtraction over and over again” or Marxism and Shakespeare

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Is there really no Theory of Mind deficit in autism? Part II: the validity of the standard Theory of Mind measures

Cross-posted at

In my previous post on Gernsbacher and Yergeau’s 2019 paper, Empirical Failures of the Claim That Autistic People Lack a Theory of Mind, I discussed problems with the authors’ arguments that the original studies that showed Theory of Mind deficits in autism have failed to replicate and been overturned by later studies. As the article continues, the authors embark on a second line of argumentation—this one concerning the inherent validity of the various ToM tests.

Morton A. Gernsbacher, Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin
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A linguist’s meditation on youth, age, and the passage of time

Does the passage of time–forward or backward–make things younger or older?

A short time ago, the youngest countries (e.g. Eritrea and South Sudan) came into existence. 

A long time ago, America was one of the youngest countries. 

As time moves forward, America gets older and older and so do we.

Going back in time, as we get younger and younger (and eventually don’t exist), we eventually find older and older languages, cultures, civilizations, and historical figures… 

But long ago, many of these things were new…

The rectangle: an appreciation

[A recently rediscovered Out in Left Field post from 11 years ago]

Only the Triangle gets a course to itself, but, as a tool for teaching math concepts in general, the Rectangle (including the special case of the Square) is, as it were, unparalleled.  Rectangles are, of course, the basic constituent of Singaporean bar modeling, substituting for x and y in word problems that might otherwise require algebra:

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Theory of Mind deficit in autism? Part I: is it all about language instead?

(Cross-posted at

In this post and five subsequent posts, I review the final article in my series on Morton Gernsbacher’s FC-friendly articles on the nature of autism. In this last article, Empirical Failures of the Claim That Autistic People Lack a Theory of Mind, Gernsbacher and Yergeau (2019) go further than any of Gernsbacher’s previous articles in making the case against autism as a socio-perceptual, socio-cognitive disorder. In particular,  Gernsbacher and Yergeau claim that the original studies that showed Theory of Mind deficits in autism have failed to replicate and been overturned by later studies.

Morton A. Gernsbacher, Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin

Gernsbacher and Yergeau open with a straw-man characterization of what Theory of Mind proponents purportedly have said: “The assertion that autistic people lack a theory of mind—that they fail to understand that other people have a mind or that they themselves have a mind—pervades psychology”. The more common claim, rather, is that autism involves some degree of deficit in the recognition/awareness of emotions in other people (e.g., attending to and recognizing facial expressions, or deducing specific emotions from behavior), combined with some degree of deficit in socio-cognitive perspective taking: in figuring out how to respond appropriately to another person’s emotional needs; in deducing the belief set of another person when those beliefs conflict with one’s own.

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Fund what you know, redux

When funders fund stuff we know better than they do, it’s painful to think of the opportunity costs. Stuff I know includes math and literacy education, and I’ve found Bill Gate’s endeavors here downright excruciating. Adding injury to the opportunity costs is the damage done to America’s school children. (See, for example, Emily Hanford’s recent exposé on Balanced Literacy.) 

Here’s my original OILF post on this phenomenon.

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Crowds vs. herds, redux

I was delighted to re-discover this old post from Out in Left Field. In the age of social media–and in light of everything Jonathan Haidt has observed about what’s happened to public discourse since the emergence of the “like” and “retweet” buttons–the Swiss study I quote from here seems more relevant than ever.

p.s. I should note that my source on this study, not long after writing about it, was disgraced for self-plagiarism and inaccurate reporting–though not for his reporting on this study.

p.p.s. re “rediscovery” of old posts, I recently figured out why Out in Left Field has kept disappearing–and have ensured it won’t happen again. And I’ve also recently figured out where to find a number of my old posts.

p.p.p.s. Oh, and as for my related issues pertaining to Twitter, you can now find me on Mastodon, where, fwiw, there are “favorite” and “boost” buttons instead of “like” and “retweet” buttons.

Crowds vs. Herds

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