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Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder Do Not Jump to Conclusions

Friday, 3 May 2013: 14:00-18:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
M. Brosnan1, E. Chapman1 and C. Ashwin2, (1)University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom, (2)Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom
Background:  People with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can have difficulties in decision making, often showing indecisiveness and taking longer to make decisions. Individuals with psychosis often make hasty decisions based on little information, which is known as a jumping to conclusions (JTC) reasoning bias. JTC has commonly been shown using the beads task, where people draw beads one at a time from two jars containing different ratios of coloured beads and have to make a decision about which jar they think the beads are being drawn from. The Autism-Psychosis model proposes these disorders represent opposing cognitive profiles, suggesting people with ASD should show the opposite decision making bias to that seen in psychosis. 

Objectives: To identify if those with ASD require more information before making a decision than matched controls and to see if this relates to degree of autism symptoms. 

Methods: The present study assessed jumping to conclusions in a sample of 23 adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder and 20 age-matched controls using the beads task. Short assessments of social and non-social processing were also undertaken. IQ was indexed using the WASI.

Results:   Even though both groups showed equivalent levels of confidence in decision-making, the ASD group required more beads than controls before making their decision. Furthermore, a positive correlation was found between increasing information requirements and a greater degree of non-social autism symptoms. No relationship was found with social autism symptoms or IQ.

Conclusions: This is the first study to use the beads task from psychosis research with an ASD sample.  The results show a more circumspect decision making bias in ASD, suggesting a more analytic cognitive style when making decisions. This is the opposite bias to that seen in psychosis, which is consistent with the Autism-Psychosis model.

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