PD Dr. Tobias Schuwerk, Dipl.-Psych.
Developmental Psychology
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Leopoldstr. 13
80802 München

Institutional website


Social interaction relies on a range of cognitive processes dedicated to make sense of other’s and our own behavior. A powerful tool to explain and predict behavior is Theory of Mind, our ability to attribute mental states, such as beliefs, intentions or desires to others and ourselves. I study Theory of Mind in children and adults with and without autism. I am particularly interested in its (neuro-)cognitive basis and its development during childhood. I try to find out if –and if so, how– the cognitive processes underlying Theory of Mind work differently in people with autism. Further, I investigate when and how we mentalize in our everyday lives. I employ a range of methods including behavioral measures, fMRI, TMS, experience sampling method and passive mobile sensing.

Current projects

Enter the Wild: Testing social cognitive theories in everyday life

Theories derived from lab-based research emphasize the importance of mentalizing for social interaction and propose a link between mentalizing, autistic traits, and social behavior. Yet, there is a large gap between the solid empirical basis of mentalizing characteristics in the lab and knowledge about actual social interaction in everyday lives of people with and without autism. In this project, we take social cognitive research outside the lab to test these assumptions in everyday life. Via smartphone-based experience sampling and logging of smartphone usage behavior we quantify mentalizing and social interaction in our participants’ natural environment. By testing their scope and validity, our approach critically informs recent theories on social cognition, social behavior, and the role of autistic traits in these phenomena. This project is funded by a grant from LMUexcellent.

Heureka! A platform for participatory autism research

It has long been claimed that direct experiences of autistic people and their parents are crucial to inform and guide theoretically important and practically relevant research. Yet, structures that enable systematic participation are often missing. Heureka! addresses this issue. In this forum, autistic and non-autistic people collaborate on designing autism research that can make the highest possible contribution to improving living conditions of autistic people and their families. Only a systematic participation of people with autism and their families helps to prevent that researchers introduce a bias from their non-autistic point of view to their research, without hearing the experts on their own: people with autism. This project is developed in cooperation with Leonhard Schilbach and Hanna Thaler (MPI for Psychiatry, Munich).

For details and updates on the project visit:
For an English version click here.

The role of language in early Theory of Mind development

Language development contributes to the acquisition of explicit Theory of Mind from the age of three onwards. Recent research suggests that explicit Theory of Mind, acquired at around four years of age, is preceded by implicit Theory of Mind, a preverbal way of processing other’s mental states. To date, we lack systematic knowledge about developmental relations between language and both forms of Theory of Mind before age four. In a longitudinal and microgenetic training study, we investigate the role of language in the transition from implicit, preverbal understanding of the mind to later explicit, verbal Theory of Mind. I am a Co-PI of this project which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

ManyBabies2: A multi-lab study on Infant Theory of Mind

A number of recent partial or failed replications of influential studies on Theory of Mind in infancy challenge the assumption that children are sensitive to another person’s false belief before four years of age. The current empirical situation regarding the robustness and validity of spontaneous or implicit Theory of Mind in infancy is complex and puzzling. As a response to this unsatisfying situation, experts in the field recently launched a comprehensive, systematic, large-scaled multi-lab replication project under the umbrella of the ManyBabies project. This project, called “ManyBabies 2 (Implicit Theory of Mind)” aims at systematically replicating and validating key findings on Theory of Mind in infancy. Crucially, original authors and authors of failed replication attempts are working together to carve out optimal methodological procedures. In a first step, the anticipatory looking paradigm by Southgate, Senju, and Csibra (2007) is conceptually replicated. All involved researchers form the ManyBabies2 consortium. Together with Hannes Rakoczy and Mike C. Frank I am currently coordinating this project.

For details and updates on this project visit:



Stachl, C., Au, Q., Schoedel, R., Buschek, D., Völkel, S.T., Schuwerk, T., Oldemeier, M., Ullmann, T., Hussmann, H., Bischl, B., & Bühner, M. (2019, June 12). Behavioral Patterns in Smartphone Usage Predict Big Five Personality Traits. DOI: 10.31234/


Schuwerk, T., Bätz, J., Träuble, B., Sodian, B., & Paulus, M. (2019). Do ostensive cues affect object processing in children with and without autism? A test of natural pedagogy theory. Psychological Research, DOI: 10.1007/s00426-019-01223-0.

Schuwerk, T., Kaltefleiter, L.J., Au, Q., Hoesl, A., & Stachl, C. (2019). Enter the Wild: Autistic Traits and Their Relationship to Mentalizing and Social Interaction in Everyday Life. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, DOI: 10.1007/s10803-019-04134-6. Preprint

Ganglmayer, K., Schuwerk, T., Sodian, B., & Paulus, M. (2019). Do Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Condition Anticipate Others’ Actions as Goal-Directed? A Predictive Coding Perspective. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, DOI: 10.1007/s10803-019-03964-8.

Grosso, S.S., Schuwerk, T., Kaltefleiter, L. J., & Sodian, B. (2019). 33-month-old children succeed in a false belief task with reduced processing demands: A replication of Setoh et al.(2016). Infant Behavior and Development, 54 151-155. DOI: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2018.09.012.


Schuwerk, T., Priewasser, B., Sodian, B., & Perner, J. (2018). The Robustness and Generalizability of Findings on Spontaneous False Belief Sensitivity. A Replication attempt. Royal Society Open Science, 5(5): 172273 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.172273.

Schuwerk, T. (2018). Autismus und soziale Interaktion im Alltag: neue Forschungswege [Autism and social interaction in everyday life: new research avenues]. Persönlichkeitsstörungen: Theorie und Therapie, 22, 72-84. link.

Sommer, M., Döhnel, K., Jarvers, I., Blaas, L., Singer, M., Nöth, V., Schuwerk, T., & Rupprecht, R. (2018). False Belief Reasoning in Adults with and without Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Similarities and Differences. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 183. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00183.

Schuwerk, T., & Paulus, M. (2018). Action Prediction in Autism. In F. R. Volkmar (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders. New York, NY: Springer New York. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-6435-8_102206-1.


Paulus, M., Schuwerk, T., Sodian, B., Ganglmayer, K. (2017). Children’s and adults’ use of verbal information to visually anticipate others’ actions: A study on explicit and implicit social-cognitive processing. Cognition, 160, 145-152. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2016.12.013.

Schuwerk, T., Schurz, M., Müller, F., Rupprecht, R., & Sommer, M. (2017). The rTPJ’s Overarching Cognitive Function in Networks for Attention and Theory of Mind. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12(1), 157-168. DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsw163.


Schuwerk, T., Sodian, B., & Paulus, M. (2016). Cognitive Mechanisms Underlying Action Prediction in Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Condition. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(12), 3623-3639. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-016-2899-x.

Döhnel, K., Schuwerk, T., Sodian, B., Hajak, G., Rupprecht, R., & Sommer, M. (2016). An fMRI study on the comparison of different types of false belief reasoning: False belief-based emotion and behaviour attribution. Social Neuroscience, 12:6, 730-742. DOI: 10.1080/17470919.2016.1241823.

Schuwerk, T., Jarvers, I., Vuori, M., & Sodian, B. (2016). Implicit mentalizing persists beyond early childhood and is profoundly impaired in children with autism spectrum conditions, Frontiers in Psychology, 7:1696. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01696.

Aldaqre, I., Schuwerk, T., Daum, M., Paulus, M., & Sodian, B. (2016). Sensitivity to communicative and non- communicative gestures in adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Experimental Brain Research, 234, 2515-2527. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-016-4656-y.

Schuwerk, T., & Paulus, M. (2016). Preschoolers, Adolescents, and Adults Visually Anticipate an Agent’s Efficient Action; But Only After Having Learned to Make Use of Frequency Information. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 69(4), 800-816. DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1061028.


Sodian, B., Schuwerk, T., & Kristen, S. (2015). Implicit and Spontaneous Theory of Mind Reasoning in Autism Spectrum Disorders. in M. Fitzgerald (Ed.), Autism. Rijeka: InTech. DOI: 10.5772/59393.

Schuwerk, T., Vuori, M., & Sodian, B. (2015). Implicit and explicit Theory of Mind reasoning in autism spectrum disorders: The impact of experience. Autism, 19(4), 459-468. DOI: 10.1177/1362361314526004.


Schuwerk, T., Langguth B., & Sommer, M. (2014). Modulating functional and dysfunctional mentalizing by transcranial magnetic stimulation. Frontiers in Psychology, 5:1190. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01309.

Schuwerk, T., Schecklmann, M., Langguth, B., Döhnel, K., Sodian, B., and Sommer, M. (2014). Inhibiting the posterior medial prefrontal cortex by rTMS decreases the discrepancy between self and other in Theory of Mind reasoning. Behavioral Brain Research, 274, 312-318. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.08.031.

Schuwerk, T., Döhnel, K., Sodian, B., Keck, I.R., Rupprecht, R., and Sommer, M. (2014). Functional Activity and Effective Connectivity of the Posterior Medial Prefrontal Cortex during Processing of Incongruent Mental States. Human Brain Mapping, 35, 2950-2965. DOI: 10.1002/hbm.22377.


Döhnel, K., Schuwerk, T., Meinhardt, J., Sodian, B., Hajak, G., & Sommer, M. (2012). Functional activity of the right temporo-parietal junction and of the medial prefrontal cortex associated with true and false belief-based behaviour attribution. Neuroimage, 60, 1652-1661. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.01.073.

Sommer, M., Döhnel, K., Schuwerk, T., & Hajak, G. (2012). Funktionell-neuroanatomische Grundlagen der Theory of Mind [Functional neuroanatomic basis of Theory of Mind]. in Förstl H. (Ed.), Theory of Mind: Neurobiologie und Psychologie sozialen Verhaltens (2. Auflage). Berlin: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-24916-7_8.


autismus – Zeitschrift des Bundesverbandes autismus Deutschland e.V.: Heureka! Ein Forum für partizipative Autismusforschung (Artikel von T. Schuwerk, H. Thaler, & L. Schilbach). Beitrag für Sonderausgabe „Gelungene Teilhabe“. Nr. 86, Dezember 2018. Link

Bayern 2 radioMikro: Interview für Sendung Tricksen, Schwindeln, Lügen - muss man immer die Wahrheit sagen? . Sendung vom 10. September 2018. Link

Leben & Erziehen: Interview für Beitrag Wie erziehen Profis?. Ausgabe 6/2018 (S. 22-25).