The I in autism: Severity and social functioning in Autism is related to self-processing

Karri Gillespie-Smith, Carrie Ballantyne, Holly Branigan, David J Turk, Sheila Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Early online date21 Nov 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Nov 2017


  • self
  • ownership
  • autism
  • ASD
  • individual differences


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