International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): The Effect of Music on Social Attribution in Autism Spectrum Disorders

The Effect of Music on Social Attribution in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, May 16, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
A. K. Bhatara , Head & Neck Surgery, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
E. M. Quintin , Psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada
E. Fombonne , Head of the Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
D. J. Levitin , Psychology, McGill University; Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT), Canada
Background: High-functioning autistic individuals can show preserved social cognition when evaluated with Theory of Mind tests but exhibit deficits when tested with social attribution tasks.

Objectives: Using a modified social attribution paradigm, we investigated social cognition in a sample of 26 adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD; Mean age = 13.5 years, Mean FSIQ = 97) and 26 matched controls (Mean age = 13.6 years, Mean FSIQ = 108) to assess what effect music, a domain of spared cognition among many individuals with autism, would have on their social attribution.

Methods: Participants were presented with animations that depicted varying levels of implied social interaction. They observed these animations both with and without music and answered the question "What was happening in the cartoon?" We scored responses for intentionality, appropriateness, and length of utterance.

Results: Adolescents with ASD showed an overall reduced tendency to make social attributions in the animations with the most complex social interactions, t(50) = -2.47, p = .017. However, when stimuli were presented with music, both groups exhibited decreased appropriateness of response, F(1, 50) = 15.86, p < .001, and tended to use fewer intentionality words when music was present. This effect was greatest for stimuli with the largest amount of social content, F(2, 100) = 5.55, p = .005.

Conclusions: Adolescents with ASD are impaired in describing complex implied social interactions between abstract figures. However, the addition of a musical soundtrack influenced the social attribution of both groups in the same direction, suggesting that both groups hear the music and integrate the music with the animation in the same way.

See more of: Cognition Posters 2
See more of: Poster Presentations