Thursday, November 10, 2011

Insensitivity to social reputation in autism.

Further characterization of how social cognition is changed by the autism disorder - evidence for distinctive brain systems that mediate the effects of social reputation:
People act more prosocially when they know they are watched by others, an everyday observation borne out by studies from behavioral economics, social psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. This effect is thought to be mediated by the incentive to improve one's social reputation, a specific and possibly uniquely human motivation that depends on our ability to represent what other people think of us. Here we tested the hypothesis that social reputation effects are selectively impaired in autism, a developmental disorder characterized in part by impairments in reciprocal social interactions but whose underlying cognitive causes remain elusive. When asked to make real charitable donations in the presence or absence of an observer, matched healthy controls donated significantly more in the observer's presence than absence, replicating prior work. By contrast, people with high-functioning autism were not influenced by the presence of an observer at all in this task. However, both groups performed significantly better on a continuous performance task in the presence of an observer, suggesting intact general social facilitation in autism. The results argue that people with autism lack the ability to take into consideration what others think of them and provide further support for specialized neural systems mediating the effects of social reputation.


  1. Anonymous5:18 PM

    Of course it has not been shown that there are neural systems specialized for mediating the effects of social reputation. Rather these are hypothesized to account for the observations which could also be due to more generalized modules that are defective in autism.

  2. Those doing this work seem to scooting way out on the limb. The basis for "thought to be mediated by the incentive to improve one's social reputation" is unfounded. Other incentives for modification of behavior when being monitored can be posited.

    The suggestion that there exists a unitary thing called "social reputation effects" is similarly unfounded. There may be global and local universes of social reputation; and the influence of whatever conceptions of social reputation may exist can be expected to vary as an effect of the brain's executive function and the extent to which that function manages the influence of global vs. local reputation and reputation vs. other objectives through time.

    The model appears, on the basis of this summary, to be free of time and space, self contained, static and somewhat mechanistic.

  3. Anonymous11:49 PM

    "The results argue that people with autism lack the ability to take into consideration..."

    They didn't test ability. They tested desire.