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Published November 2015 | Accepted Version + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Implicit Social Biases in People With Autism


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.

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).

Attached Files

Accepted Version - nihms702487.pdf

Supplemental Material - DS_10.11770956797615595607_OpenPracticesDisclosure.pdf

Supplemental Material - DS_10.11770956797615595607_Supplemental_Material.pdf


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