An islet of social ability in Asperger Syndrome: Judging social attributes from faces

White, Sarah; Hill, Elisabeth L.; Winston, Joel and Frith, Uta. 2006. An islet of social ability in Asperger Syndrome: Judging social attributes from faces. Brain and Cognition, 61(1), pp. 69-77. ISSN 02782626 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

We asked adults with Asperger Syndrome to judge pictorial stimuli in terms of certain social stereotypes to evaluate to what extent they have access to this type of social knowledge. Sixteen adults with Asperger Syndrome and 24 controls, matched for age and intelligence, were presented with sets of faces, bodies and objects, which had to be rated on a 7-point scale in terms of trustworthiness, attractiveness, social status, and age, or, in the case of objects, price. Despite impaired performance on two important aspects of social cognition (second-order mentalizing and face recognition) the social judgements of the individuals with Asperger Syndrome were just as competent and consistent as those of their matched controls, with only one exception: there was a trend for them to be less able to judge the attractiveness of faces if they were the same sex. We explain this difference in terms of a weakness in mentalizing, specifically the ability to take a different point of view: While all other stereotypic attributions could be made from an egocentric point of view, judging the attractiveness of faces of one's own sex requires taking the perspective of someone of the opposite sex, a challenge for people with mentalizing problems. We conclude that individuals with Asperger Syndrome show preserved aspects of social knowledge, as revealed in the attribution of stereotypes to pictures of people. These findings suggest that there are dissociable subcomponents to social cognition and that not all of these are compromised in Asperger Syndrome.

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autism spectrum disorder, Asperger syndrome, social cognition, stereotypes

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Date Deposited:

11 Mar 2010 17:21

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 15:46

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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