Interaction Takes Two: Typical Adults Exhibit Mind-Blindness Towards Those With Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Abstract

Recent work suggests that we are better at interpreting the movements of others who move like us, and that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) move in a quantifiably different way from typical individuals. Therefore, “social impairments” exhibited by individuals with ASD may, at least in part, represent a failure by typical individuals to infer the correct mental states from the movements of those with ASD. To examine this possibility, individuals with ASD and typical adults manually directed 2 triangles to generate animations depicting mental state interactions. Kinematic analysis of the generated animations demonstrated that the participants with ASD moved atypically, specifically with increased jerk compared to the typical participants. In confirmation of our primary hypothesis, typical individuals were better able to identify the mental state portrayed in the animations produced by typical, relative to autistic, individuals. The participants with ASD did not show this “same group” advantage, demonstrating comparable performance for the 2 sets of animations. These findings have significant implications for clinical assessment and intervention in ASD, and potentially other populations with atypical movement.

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