Metaperception in Adolescents with High Functioning Autism: Accuracy and Associations with Perceptions of Others

Thursday, May 12, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
L. V. Usher1, C. A. Burrows1 and H. A. Henderson2, (1)University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, (2)University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada
Background:  During everyday social interactions with peers, individuals formulate both perceptions of their peers and impressions of what peers think about them, or metaperceptions (Laing, Phillipson, & Lee, 1966). The ability to accurately perceive others’ impressions is crucial for interpersonal success (Carlson & Kenny, 2012). The association between perception and metaperception has not been examined in adolescents or in those with high functioning autism (HFA), but may offer insight into mechanisms underlying deficits in social reciprocity observed in adolescents with HFA.

Objectives:  We aimed to quantify both adolescents’ perceptions of an unfamiliar peer and their metaperceptions using a novel self-report measure. We also examined the associations between dyadic perception and metaperception.

Methods:  This study included 24 dyads composed of gender-, age-, and verbal IQ-matched adolescents with HFA paired with unfamiliar typically developing adolescents (Mage=14.40, SD=1.41). Immediately following a five-minute unstructured social interaction, each participant completed the Perceptions and Metaperceptions Questionnaire (PAMQ) indexing perception of the peer (e.g., “How cool is ___?”) and metaperception, or predictions of peer’s impressions (e.g., “How cool does ___ think you are?”). 

Results:  Multilevel modeling was used to estimate the effect of an adolescent’s own perceptions of the peer on his or her own metaperception, and the effect of the peer’s perception on the adolescent’s metaperception (see Figure 1). For adolescents with HFA, their perception of the peer was positively associated with their metaperception, β=.33, t(28)=2.27, p=.03, indicating that the higher they rated their peers, the higher they believed their peers would rate them. However, for TD adolescents, their perception of the peer was independent of their metaperception, β=.10, t(28)=.71, p=.49.

 Agreement between an individual’s metaperception and the peer’s perception of them differed by diagnostic group, β=.31, t(35)=2.25, p=.03. Specifically, for typically developing adolescents, metaperception was positively associated with partner’s perception, β=.37, t(24)=2.27, p=.03, indicating accuracy of metaperception. The higher the partner rated the typically developing adolescent, the higher the adolescent predicted the partner rated him/her. In contrast, for adolescents with HFA, metaperception was marginally and negatively associated with the partner’s perception , β=.-.26, t(34)=-1.93, p=.06. The higher the partner rated the adolescent with HFA, the lower the adolescent predicted the partner would rate him/her, indicating poor accuracy of metaperception.

Conclusions:  Results indicate that while TD adolescents display relatively accurate metaperceptions, adolescents with HFA experience difficulty distinguishing between perspectives of the self and other. HFA participants’ lack of ability to accurately interpret social partners’ impressions may be a factor that impedes social functioning in adolescents with HFA, and presents interesting implications for targeted social skill treatment. These novel findings will be discussed in terms of ecological validity.