How does social context affect observers' ability to identify autism in others?


Research is increasingly showing that social communication between autistic people is as efficient and enjoyable as interactions between non-autistic people. This suggests that autistic social/communicative “impairments” are dependent on the neurotype of the other member(s) of the interaction. This may make it more difficult for observers to accurately identify someone as autistic when they are interacting with another autistic person. To test this, 78 raters (39 autistic; 39 non-autistic) watched clips from videos showing autistic dyads, non-autistic dyads, and mixed dyads interacting, and were asked to identify the autistic individual(s). A subset of 54 participants repeated this procedure with photographs. Raters correctly identified dyad members’ autism status at better than chance for videos (0.58, p<0.001) and photographs (0.55, p<0.001). However, accurate identification for autistic dyads was significantly below chance for both videos (0.34, p<0.001) and photographs (0.27, p<0.001). For videos, mixed dyad ratings had the highest accuracy (non-autistic raters 0.71, p<0.001; autistic raters 0.88 p<0.001); for photographs, non-autistic dyads had the highest accuracy. Both autistic and non-autistic raters showed an own-neurotype accuracy effect across all dyad types.

Jun 28, 2024 12:00 AM
University of East Anglia, England
Holly E. A. Sutherland
Holly E. A. Sutherland
Doctoral Candidate