Level of functioning in Autism associated with self-processing ability: evidence from an ownership paradigm

Karri Gillespie-Smith, Holly P. Branigan, Carrie Ballantyne, David J. Turk, Sheila Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Background It has been argued that 'the self' is at the heart of social cognition, with an understanding of 'self' anchored within Theory of Mind - TOM (i.e. simulation theory). Self-concept is reported to be atypical in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is referred to as the absent-self hypothesis. Currently however, there are discrepancies in the ASD literature with some research reporting intact self-processing and others reporting impaired self-processing. The current study examined self-processing biases in a group of children with ASD by applying a more developmentally appropriate ownership paradigm. Method A 3x2 mixed design was applied with the independent variables being Group (3 levels: ASD, CA, VA) and the dependent variables being Memory (2 levels: Self, Other). The ASD group (N=18) were compared to a group of typical children matched on chronological age (N=18) and a group matched on verbal mental ability (N=18). Pairs of children (4-15 years) sorted 56 picture cards depicting a range of different toys into self- and other-owned sets. Results A mixed ANOVA showed a significant memory advantage for self-owned items regardless of participant group F (1,48) = 12.53, p<.001. This effect was significantly related to levels of socio-communicative ability within the ASD group r = -0.619, p<.05. Discussion Children with ASD do have an intact self-concept and can show the same self-processing biases as their typical counterparts. This self-processing however is linked to the level of socio-communicative ability across ASD which may help to elucidate the earlier reported discrepancies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2016
EventBPS Developmental Section Annual Conference - Hilton Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Sept 201616 Sept 2016


ConferenceBPS Developmental Section Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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