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Implicit Social Biases in People With Autism

Birmingham, Elina and Stanley, Damian and Nair, Remya and Adolphs, Ralph (2015) Implicit Social Biases in People With Autism. Psychological Science, 26 (11). pp. 1693-1705. ISSN 0956-7976. PMCID PMC4636978.

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Implicit social biases are ubiquitous and are known to influence social behavior. A core diagnostic criterion of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is abnormal social behavior. We investigated the extent to which individuals with ASD might show a specific attenuation of implicit social biases, using Implicit Association Tests (IATs) involving social (gender, race) and nonsocial (nature, shoes) categories. High-functioning adults with ASD showed intact but reduced IAT effects relative to healthy control participants. We observed no selective attenuation of implicit social (vs. nonsocial) biases in our ASD population. To extend these results, we supplemented our healthy control data with data collected from a large online sample from the general population and explored correlations between autistic traits and IAT effects. We observed no systematic relationship between autistic traits and implicit social biases in our online and control samples. Taken together, these results suggest that implicit social biases, as measured by the IAT, are largely intact in ASD.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription Material CentralArticle
Adolphs, Ralph0000-0002-8053-9692
Additional Information:© 2015 The Author(s). Received August 29, 2014; Accepted June 22, 2015; Published online before print September 18, 2015. Author Contributions: D. Stanley and E. Birmingham contributed equally to this article. E. Birmingham, D. Stanley, and R. Adolphs developed and designed the study. Testing and data collection were performed by E. Birmingham, D. Stanley, and R. Nair; these three authors also performed the data analysis. E. Birmingham, D. Stanley, and R. Adolphs interpreted the results and wrote the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission. Acknowledgments: We thank Catherine Armstrong, Tim Armstrong, and Brian Cheng for their help with recruiting participants and collecting data, and Daniel Kennedy, Lynn Paul, and Christina Corsello for their help in confirming diagnoses of autism. We also wish to thank the participants and their families for committing their time to participate in the research. Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article. Funding: This work was funded by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Grant 611630 to E. Birmingham) and from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (Grant R01MH080721 to R. Adolphs and Grant K01MH099343 to D. Stanley).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)611630
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:autism spectrum disorder (ASD), implicit bias, Implicit Association Test (IAT), stereotype, prejudice, open data, open materials
Issue or Number:11
PubMed Central ID:PMC4636978
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150928-083859278
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Elina Birmingham, Damian Stanley, Remya Nair, and Ralph Adolphs Implicit Social Biases in People With Autism Psychological Science November 2015 26: 1693-1705, first published on September 18, 2015 doi:10.1177/0956797615595607
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:60559
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:29 Sep 2015 03:32
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 08:58

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