The Strange Stories Film Task
: A New Measure of Social Cognition.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Clinical Psychology


Introduction: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterised by difficulties in social interaction. High functioning (HF) adults with an ASD diagnosis often report subtle social cognitive difficulties. The main aim of the study was to develop and validate a novel measure of social cognition (The Strange Stories Film Task (SSFt) and in doing so overcome a number of limitations to available measures in the field.

Method: The measure consisted of acted scenarios designed to capture the subtle mentalizing difficulties observed in adults with high functioning ASD. 20 participants were recruited to pilot the new measure. A final test set was produced and shown to a group of 20 well diagnosed HFASD adults and matched controls. Participants also completed well established measures of social cognition and questionnaire measures of empathy, alexithymia and ASD traits.

Results: The SSFt was more effective at differentiating the HFASD group from the control group showing greater levels of sensitivity. Group differences could not be attributed to general cognitive factors. The SSFt was associated with the traditional measures of social cognition. Performance on the SSFt was associated with measures of empathy and ASD symptomatology. No associations with alexithymia were observed.

Conclusion: The SSFt is a potentially useful tool to indentify mentalizing difficulties in HFASD samples. In addition, the measure was sensitive to individual differences in mentalizing abilities in non-autistic adults. The SSFt showed adequate convergent validity. The elements of the measure targeting social interaction abilities rather than understanding proved the most sensitive. These findings are discussed with regard to clinical implications and future research.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorFrancesca Happe (Supervisor)

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