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Title: Further exploration of the social cognitive abilities of high-functioning adults with 'autistic spectrum disorders' : is there evidence to suggest they use alternative routes to problem solution?
Author: Caffrey, Anna
ISNI:       0000 0004 2698 8395
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2006
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Recent work suggests that high-functioning adults with 'autistic spectrum disorders' (ASDs) may 'solve' social cognition problems using different strategies to those used by typically-developed adults. This study addressed the 'alternative routes' hypothesis by contrasting the performance of a group of participants with ASDs to an age and 'IQ' matched control group on tasks of social cognition. Quantitative and qualitative methods were employed. On a neuropsychological battery (examining verbal ability, attention, executive function and non-verbal abstraction) the groups were found to be well matched in all domains, except for one measure of executive function. Two measures of social cognition were used; an 'advanced' theory of mind (ToM) task, Strange Stories, and a measure of real-life-type social problem solving, Predicaments. The scores were subjected to multivariate analysis, with neuropsychological scores as covariates. A (non-significant) difference was found between the groups on ToM Strange Stories. Significant differences were found on aspects of the Predicaments task, including the selection of solutions that demonstrated adequate problem appreciation, social appropriateness and practical effectiveness. Performance on ToM Strange Stories was correlated with several dimensions of Predicaments. This lends some support to the suggestion that better ToM skills correlate to better real-life social insight and competence. These tasks are not 'process pure' and a range of factors that may impact on social cognitive abilities are discussed. A novel 'think aloud' method was employed to explore the hypothesis that people with ASDs may solve social problems in different ways to typical adults. Participants were asked to verbalise their thoughts on half the social cognition measures. The resulting transcripts were analysed using a process of thematic analysis. Three overarching themes emerged that gave weight to the 'alternative routes' hypothesis. The main differences were in respect to an intuitive versus explicit ToM, the appropriate versus inappropriate use of context, and moral perspectives. The results of both components provide interesting advancements and counterpoints to existing research. The strengths, weaknesses and potential implications of the findings are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available