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Title: Investigation into the social information processing patterns of young people with a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome/high function Autism
Author: Flood, Andrea Mary
ISNI:       0000 0001 3470 8056
Awarding Body: University of Manchester : University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2004
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Background Deficits in social functioning are a core feature of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Naturalistic observations indicate that children and young people with ASD have difficulties in initiating and maintaining social interactions with their peers and as a result often withdraw from social situations. Difficulties in social functioning have been linked to a number of underlying cognitive and developmental factors, including deficits in theory of mind, executive functioning and difficulties experiencing interpersonal relatedness. To date there has been little attempt to draw on research based on normative models of social cognition to understand social behaviour in young people with ASD. Aim of the current study This is an exploratory study with three aims. Firstly, an overall aim to explore the utility of an information processing model proposed by Crick and Dodge (1994) to the study of social cognition in ASD. Secondly, to compare the social information processing patterns and theory of mind skills of young people with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome/high functioning autism (AS/HFA) to a group of typically developing young people. Thirdly, to explore possible associations between social information processing patterns, theory of mind skills and social functioning in young people with AS/HFA. Methodology A matched group design was employed to compare the social information processing patterns of young people with AS/HFA to typically developing young people using a social information processing interview previously designed for this purpose. The groups were also compared on a measure of theory of mind skills. A series of correlational analyses were used to explore associations between social information processing, theory of mind and social functioning in the group of young people with AS/HFA. Results Young people with a diagnosis of AS/HFA showed significantly different patterns of information processing compared to the typically developing young people at the intent attribution, response generation and response evaluation stages of the information processing model. Young people with AS/HFA also performed less well than the typically developing young people on the task designed to tap theory of mind. Theory of mind skills were found to be significantly associated with parental ratings of peer problems in young people with AS/HFA but not with parental ratings of pro-social behaviour. There was only limited evidence of an association between social information processing and measures of theory of mind and social functioning. Discussion The results of this exploratory study are discussed in relation to the previous empirical investigations of social cognition in ASD. The study provides tentative support for the utility of a social information processing approach in understanding social functioning in ASD. Implications for clinical and support services are considered with suggestions for further research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available