Baron-Cohen et al. (Evaluation Essay)

P – Point (Strength/Weakness)E – Explain the pointE – Example from the studyR – Relate to the point on why is it a strength / weakness in the study
High in reliabilityThe extent to which a procedure, task, or measure is consistent. That it would produce the same results with the same people on each occasion.Participants were tested in a quiet room and were shown 36 images of the eye stimulus. They were all then asked to select a word that best describes the emotion in the image and were all informed that they are allowed to refer to the glossary of words at any point during the revised eye test.The standardisation of the presentation of the stimuli and the procedure eases the process of replication for future research hence the study has high reliability.
Natural Experiment (strength)An investigation looking for a causal relationship in which the independent variable (IV) cannot be directly manipulated by the experimenter.

This study aim to test autistic adults to see if the revised version of the eye test works specifically with 15 male adults that were formally diagnosed with AS/HFA and recruited from an autistic society magazine.


Recruited via adverts in the U.K. National Autistic Society magazine, or equivalent support groups. They support groups. They had all been diagnosed in specialist centers using established criteria (American Psychiatric Association, 1994; World Health Organisation, 1994)

A natural experiment allows us to study variables that would be unethical or impossible to manipulate. Therefore this study, is able to explore the theory of mind of autistic participants via the eyes test making natural experiment a strength.


Low on ecological validityThis refers to the extent that the setting a study has been conducted in can be relevant to everyday life.The study was conducted in a laboratory where participants identified mental states from 36 black and white static photographs of eyes that were taken from a magazine.In real life mental states are assessed from a person that is animated with eyes and face move continuously. The artificiality of the experiment setting and task might cause responses of participants to not reflect real life/natural behaviour lowering the ecological validity.
Low in validityThe extent to which a researcher is testing what they claim to be testing.8 judges were assigned to confirm that the emotions in the eyes and the target words matched.

However, only 5 of the judges had to agree, indicating room for uncertainty on the word selected to match the image shown. This shows that, interpretation of the emotion shown by the image in not completely conclusive, thus lowering the validity of the study.


Quantitative data (Reductionist) (Weakness)The use of quantitative data is a weakness as it is reductionist. Reductionist is when complex behaviours is reduced to simple numbersGroup 2 participants scored a mean score of 21.9 on the eye test while group 4 scored a mean of 30.9.The researcher is unable to provide further explanation just from the mean score as to why group 4 scored higher. The reasons for the particular choice and behaviour are not explored. Therefore, the data collected is reductionist
Usefulness (Strength)Usefulness is the extent in which the findings of the study can help to improve the lives of people in their everyday lives. The eye test is devised to assess theory of mind which lacks among individuals diagnosed with autism.For example, this study identified that the mean of the eyes test score was lower for the AS/HFA adults (m = 2.19) than general population group (m = 26.2), proving the eyes test can be used to identified limitation in theory of mind.

This is advantageous as the Eyes Test can be used to help detect autism, such as when a child/adult scores low on the test it might indicate a lack of Theory of Mind so that person can receive help. Hence, this study is useful.


Other analysis:

Cognitive psychologists are interested in how we process information. They look into how we input information, then how we process that information and finally how we retrieve and/or use that information. They believe that the brain works like a computer following the procedure of input-process/storage output.

The revised eyes test can be used by other research teams to see if they can replicate findings and test for reliability. Even though it was the older version of the eyes test in the original study, this study did find reliable results in terms of performance of AS/ HFA (low scores in both studies).

The revised eyes test was used with all participants – this means that all comparisons between the groups have some validity as we are comparing on the same set scale using the same questions, etc.

Baron-Cohen et al. strengths

  • able to collect objective data e.g. using quantitative measures such as the Eyes Test and AQ
  • able to use statistical procedures, which is not possible on qualitative data, enabling confirmation of patterns of eyes test responses in people with ASD. weaknesses
  • although most of the data were quantitative, responding to the eyes test involves decision-making which could be subjective so assumptions about the validity and reliability of the quantitative data may be misplaced.
  • quantitative data about one person’s beliefs about the feelings of another person does not provide in-depth information about their understanding, whereas qualitative data may be able to provide more detailed insight into perception of emotional states.

The main advantage of this research is that it can be used to improve human behaviour in some way. Psychologists could now create therapies (or training) to help people with AS or HFA improve their social communication and social emotional skills to help them integrate better into society.

The eyes test does not take into account the “full picture” of understanding emotions – in reality there are cues such as body language and other facial cues that can help people to understand the emotions of others.