Autistic peer-to-peer information transfer is highly effective

Catherine J Crompton, Danielle Ropar, Claire V M Evans-Williams, Emma G Flynn, Sue Fletcher-Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Effective information transfer requires social communication skills. As autism is clinically defined by social communication deficits, it may be expected that information transfer between autistic people would be particularly deficient. However, the Double Empathy theory would suggest that communication difficulties arise from a mismatch in neurotype; and thus information transfer between autistic people may be more successful than information transfer between an autistic and a non-autistic person. We investigate this by examining information transfer between autistic adults, non-autistic adults and mixed autistic-with-non-autistic pairs. Initial participants were told a story which they recounted to a second participant, who recounted the story to a third participant and so on, along a ‘diffusion chain’ of eight participants (n = 72). We found a significantly steeper decline in detail retention in the mixed chains, while autistic chains did not significantly differ from non-autistic chains. Participant rapport ratings revealed significantly lower scores for mixed chains. These results challenge the diagnostic criterion that autistic people lack the skills to interact successfully. Rather, autistic people effectively share information with each other. Information transfer selectively degrades more quickly in mixed pairs, in parallel with a reduction in rapport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1704-1712
Number of pages9
JournalAutism
Volume24
Issue number7
Early online date20 May 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

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