The Relationship between Autistic Characteristics, Social Engagement and Executive Function in a typical sample

Nicolle Robertson, ADAM QURESHI, REBECCA MONK

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Abstract

This study represents a first attempt to examine in a non-clinical population the interplay between social engagement, executive function and Theory of Mind within a social motivation theory framework.
One hundred and seventy participants (135 female; M age = 19.01, SD age = 1.27) completed measures of theory of mind (ToM; Faux Pas task), autistic traits (Autism Spectrum Quotient), social engagement (Reward Dependence Subscale of The Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI-RD), sociability and executive function (both sub-scales of the Adult Temperament Questionnaire; ATQ).
Path analyses found executive function, sociability and social engagement were negatively associated with autistic traits both directly and indirectly. Results indicate that executive function may impact sociability and social engagement and their interaction may relate to the degree of autistic traits shown in a typical sample. However, ToM (as measured by the Faux Pas test) was not related to any of the other variables.
Sociability, social engagement and effortful control deficits may be linked to higher levels of autistic traits. These factors appear to form a hierarchy of factors underpinning ASD, with executive function contributing to all aspects, followed by sociability and social engagement at a higher level. Future research examining in clinical populations the utility of a more integrated model of social motivation that incorporates executive functions appears warranted.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Autism
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Autistic traits
  • theory of mind
  • sociability
  • social engagement
  • executing function

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