Exploring the relationship between fairness and ‘brain types’ in children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder

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BackgroundExisting research typically focuses on only one domain of cognition with regard to fairness—theory of mind or executive function. However, children with High-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HF-ASD) are cognitively impaired in both domains. Moreover, little is known about fairness characteristics in children with HF-ASD in relation to both domains of cognition.MethodsThirty children with HF-ASD as well as 39 children with typical development (TD) were evaluated in this study. We investigated the development of children's fairness characteristics as a responder in a mini ultimatum game (UG). The different ‘brain types,’ i.e., with or without HF-ASD, were evaluated using the Empathy Questionnaire-Systemizing Questionnaire (E/SC-Q). Furthermore, we explored the relationship between fairness and brain types using Pearson correlation analyses.ResultsChildren in the HF-ASD group were more likely to accept unfair offers than were children in the TD group (χ2= 17.513, p = .025). In the HF-ASD group, the acceptance rate of unfair offers was correlated with the discrepancy score (r = 0.363, p = .048), while there were no significant correlations in the TD group. In HF-ASD group, compared with Type S, acceptance rate of unfair offer was significant higher in Extreme Type S ‘brain type’ (F = 28.584, p < .001). While dividing TD participants by ‘brain type’, there was no significant difference in acceptance rate of unfair offer among five difference ‘brain types’ (F = 1.131, p = .358). Stepwise regression revealed that Extreme Type S positively predicted acceptance of unfair offers (F [1, 68] = 8.695, p < .001).DiscussionOur findings show that children with HF-ASD were more likely to accept an unfair offer; in particular, the more unbalanced the development of empathy and systemizing was, the more significant the unfairness preference observed. Extreme Type S positively predicted the acceptance of unfair offers by children with HF-ASD.Registration of clinical trialsWorld Health Organization class I registered international clinical trial platform, ChiCTR-ROC-17012877.HighlightsWe examined the advanced cognitive function of ASD.We enrolled children and adolescent as research participants.We exploring the relationship between ‘brain type’ and fairness in children and adolescent with ASD.We found fairness was related with the balance between empathy and systematizing in children and adolescent with ASD.

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