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Autistic Traits and Everyday Social Behaviour

Jameel, LB; (2016) Autistic Traits and Everyday Social Behaviour. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterised by difficulties with social communication and interaction. A great deal of experimental work has examined the performance of people with ASD on social cognition tasks in laboratory settings, and a number of cognitive models have been postulated to account for observed differences in those with ASD. Meanwhile, clinical reports indicate that people with ASD face a range of difficulties in everyday functioning. However, very little experimental work has tried to elucidate how the postulated cognitive deficits in ASD might translate into difficulties in real-life-type settings, especially in adult populations. A range of novel scenario-based tasks were developed for the present thesis which aimed to provide more sensitive tools than traditional social cognition tasks for identifying the nature and severity of impairments in everyday social functioning. These systematically examined different aspects of social performance, in particular pro-social behaviour, moral judgment and reasoning. The present thesis adopted a trait-based approach to investigate how high versus low levels of autistic traits influenced everyday social functioning. This is in line with the continuum conceptualisation of an autistic spectrum, whereby those with clinical levels of impairment (i.e. diagnosed with ASD) are thought to lie at the extreme end of a normal distribution of autistic traits. Overall, two key findings emerged; firstly, people with high levels of autistic traits tended to be less behaviourally and emotionally responsive to others’ needs. Secondly, people with high levels of autistic traits displayed relatively intact awareness of social and moral norms that underpin everyday situations, but their understanding of these appeared to be more limited. These findings are consistent with the conceptualisation of a continuum of trait severity, whereby those with high levels of autistic traits showed similar difficulties to those seen in people with ASD, although perhaps to a lesser extent. The body of work presented in this thesis has potential clinical implications for the assessment and management of adults with ASD.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Autistic Traits and Everyday Social Behaviour
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Social Behaviour, Empathy, Executive Functioning
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1477210
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