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.
Gillespie-Smith, K., Ballantyne, C., Branigan, H. P., Turk, D. J., & Cunningham, S. J. (2018). The I in Autism: severity and social functioning in Autism is related to self-processing. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 36(1), 127-141. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjdp.12219