The I in autism: severity and social functioning in autism is related to self-processing

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
102 Downloads (Pure)


It is well established that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show impaired understanding of others and deficits within social functioning. However, it is still unknown whether self-processing is related to these impairments and to what extent self impacts social functioning and communication. Using an ownership paradigm, we show that children with ASD and chronological- and verbal-age-matched typically developing (TD) children do show the self referential effect in memory. In addition, the self bias was dependent on symptom severity and socio-communicative ability. Children with milder ASD symptoms were more likely to have a high self-bias, consistent with a low attention to others relative to self. In contrast, severe ASD symptoms were associated with reduced self-bias, consistent with an ‘absent self’ hypothesis. These findings indicate that deficits in self-processing may be related to impairments in social cognition for those on the lower end of the autism spectrum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127–141
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date21 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


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