UCL Discovery
UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

A Friendly Article: The Qualitative Investigation of Anthropomorphism in Autistic and Nonautistic Adults

Negri, O; White, RC; Remington, A; (2019) A Friendly Article: The Qualitative Investigation of Anthropomorphism in Autistic and Nonautistic Adults. Autism in Adulthood 10.1089/aut.2019.0027. (In press).

[img] Text
Anthropomorphism_in_Autism_FINAL.pdf - Accepted version
Access restricted to UCL open access staff until 31 October 2020.

Download (402kB)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman agents. This common tendency is thought to be driven by a heightened motivation for social connection and may therefore be expected to be reduced in autistic individuals given that this group has been claimed to demonstrate reduced social motivation in some settings. However, the subject of anthropomorphism in autism has not been studied extensively, and online forums, autobiographical accounts, and recent research on the topic suggest that, contrary to this expectation, anthropomorphism is commonly experienced by autistic individuals. METHODS: We conducted semi-structured interviews with eight autistic and eight nonautistic adults, all who reported a tendency to anthropomorphize. We recorded, transcribed, and analyzed the interviews according to the thematic analysis framework with the objective of identifying similarities and differences in the lived experiences of anthropomorphism in autistic and nonautistic individuals. RESULTS: Individuals in both groups described anthropomorphism as comforting, promoting a sense of safety and friendship with, and feelings of empathy and sympathy toward, nonhuman agents. Autistic individuals stressed the important role anthropomorphized agents played in their life, particularly when growing up: easing loneliness and helping develop an understanding of emotions and relationships. Participants also expressed negative aspects of the phenomenon, with both autistic and nonautistic individuals worrying about anthropomorphized agents' feelings and well-being. For some individuals, such thoughts and feelings caused distress and were experienced as intrusive due to their involuntary nature. CONCLUSIONS: Autistic and nonautistic adults showed very similar anthropomorphic patterns. Although preliminary in nature, our findings highlight characteristics of anthropomorphic experiences for autistic and nonautistic individuals, furthering our understanding of individual differences in social cognition. By illustrating the important role nonhuman agents may play in the lives of autistic individuals, our findings may also guide future research and practice.

Type: Article
Title: A Friendly Article: The Qualitative Investigation of Anthropomorphism in Autistic and Nonautistic Adults
DOI: 10.1089/aut.2019.0027
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1089/aut.2019.0027
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: anthropomorphism, autism, social cognition, social motivation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10086197
Downloads since deposit
1Download
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item