|Intro||German developmental psychologist|
|A.K.A.||U Frith, U. Frith, Frith U|
|Is||Psychologist Professor Educator Writer Non-fiction writer|
|Type||Academia Healthcare Literature|
|Birth||25 May 1941, Rockenhausen, Germany|
Uta Frith, DBE (Hon), FRS, FBA, FMedSci (née Aurnhammer; born 25 May 1941) is a German developmental psychologist working at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. She has pioneered much of the current research into autism and dyslexia, and has written several books on the two subjects. Her book Autism: Explaining the Enigma introduces the cognitive neuroscience of autism. Among the students she has mentored are Tony Attwood, Maggie Snowling, Simon Baron-Cohen and Francesca Happé.
Frith was born Uta Aurnhammer in Rockenhausen, a small village in the hills between Luxembourg and Mannheim in Germany. She completed her undergraduate course in experimental psychology at Saarland University in Saarbrücken. She trained in clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and went on to complete her Doctor of Philosophy, on pattern detection in neurotypical and autistic children, in 1968. She was mentored, during her early career, by Neil O'Connor and Beate Hermelin and has described them as pioneers in the field of autism.
Frith's research initiated the current representation of a theory of mind deficit in autism. While she was a member of the Cognitive Development Unit (CDU) in London, in 1985 she published with Alan M. Leslie and Simon Baron-Cohen the famous article Does the autistic child have a "theory of mind"?, which proposed that people with autism have specific difficulties understanding other people's beliefs and desires. She was one of the first in the UK to study Asperger's syndrome there. Her work has focused on reading development, spelling and dyslexia. She has also suggested that individuals with autism have 'weak central coherence', and are better than typical individuals at processing details but worse at integrating information from many different sources. Frith was one of the first neuroscientists to recognise "autism as a condition of the brain rather than the result of cold parenting." She has been supported through her career by the Medical Research Council at University College London. Frith is an active collaborator at the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University in Denmark. The goal of the centre is to provide a trans-disciplinary platform, upon which the many aspects of human interaction may be studied. The project is based in part on a paper written with Chris Frith: Interacting Minds – a Biological Basis.
Supporting women in science
Frith has advocated the advancement of women in science, in part by developing a support network called Science & Shopping which she hopes will "encourage women to share ideas and information that are inspiring and fun." She also co-founded the UCL Women network, "a grassroots networking and social organization for academic staff (postdocs and above) in STEM at UCL," in January 2013. In 2015 she was named chair of the Royal Society's Diversity Committee, where she has written about unconscious bias and how it affects which scientists receive grants.
In the media
On 11 May 2012 Frith appeared as a guest on the American PBS Charlie Rose television interview show. On 4 December she appeared as a guest on the "Brain" episode of BBC Two's Dara Ó Briain's Science Club. On 1 March 2013 she was the guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. From 31 March to 4 April 2014, to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, she was the guest of Sarah Walker on BBC Radio 3's Essential Classics. On 1 April 2014, she featured in "Living with Autism", an episode of the BBC's Horizon documentary series. On 26 August 2015 she presented the Horizon episode entitled "OCD: A Monster in my Mind", and on 29 August 2017 she presented the Horizon episode entitled "What Makes a Psychopath?". Frith has written on the visibility of women in science, by promoting an exhibition on female scientist portraits at The Royal Society in 2013.
Frith was elected a Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2001, a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2005, an Honorary Fellow of the British Psychological Society in 2006, a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2008, an Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge in 2008, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, and an Honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012. She was President of the Experimental Psychology Society in 2006–2007. She was awarded the Mind & Brain Prize in 2010. In 2015, she was listed as one of BBC's 100 Women.
Frith is married to Chris Frith, professor emeritus at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London. In 2008 a double portrait was painted by Emma Wesley. They have two sons. In 2009 Frith and her husband jointly received the European Latsis Prize for their contribution to understanding the human mind and brain. In 2014 they were awarded the Jean Nicod Prize for their work on social cognition.