Examining correlates of cooperation in autism: Imitation, joint attention, and understanding intentions

Costanza Colombi, Kristin Liebal, Michael Tomasello, Gregory Young, Felix Warneken, Sally J Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Scopus citations


The goal of the current study was to examine the contribution of three early social skills that may provide a foundation for cooperative performance in autism: (1) imitation, (2) joint attention, and (3) understanding of other people's intentions regarding actions on objects. Fourteen children with autistic disorder (AD) and 15 children with other developmental disabilities (DDs) matched on non-verbal developmental age (AD, mean 27.7, SD 9.8; DD, mean 33.4, SD 11.1) and verbal developmental age (AD, mean 21.5, SD 12.3; DD, mean 28.4, SD 11.0) participated in the study. Children with autism showed poorer performance on imitation and joint attention measures, but not on the intentionality task. Multiple regression analyses showed that imitation skills and joint attention contributed independently to cooperation, above and beyond the understanding of intentions of actions on objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-163
Number of pages21
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009



  • Autism
  • Cooperation
  • Social development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Cite this