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Study: Autistic and Non-Autistic People Share More In Common Than We Think

May 2, 2022


A study conducted by some of the top universities in the United Kingdom has shown similarities between the way autistic and non-autistic individuals process information. 

Study: Autistic and Non-Autistic People Share More In Common Than We Think https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/similarities-between-autistic-individuals/

In the largest study of its kind, the universities of Bath, Cardiff, Manchester, and King’s College London conducted research on more than a thousand people to examine the link between autism, quick intuitive thinking, and slow rational thinking.

The brain uses two systems to process information. The first system processes quicker intuitive judgments, whereas the other processes slower rational thinking. Up until now, many people were under the impression that these systems worked differently for people with autism, resulting in difficulties at work and in everyday life.

We now know these basic psychological systems are not diminished in people with autism as some researchers once thought.

The study

In three experiments, the researchers analyzed the link between autistic personality traits and thinking style. 

In the fourth experiment, the researchers compared 200 autistic and over 200 non-autistic people. The results showed that autistic people thought as fast and as rationally as those who were non-autistic.

As stated by the study: “Except for lower self-reported intuitive thinking, we found no unique contributions of autism to intuitive or deliberative thinking across all four studies, as evidenced by frequentist and Bayesian analyses. Overall, these studies indicate that intuitive and deliberative thinking is neither enhanced nor particularly impaired in relation to autism.”

The outcome

The fact that society has been accustomed to the idea that autistic and non-autistic individuals process information very differently means that education, clinics, and people in general, might need to think about changing how they approach autism.


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The researchers have emphasized ways in which organizations can accommodate autistic people and their families better. This includes mentioning how educational and commercial organizations have tried to accommodate neurodivergent people in the past, which according to them, has not been an evidence-based example of support. The study suggests a change in social and sensory environments may be more impartial for autistic individuals to thrive. 

Dr. Punit Shah, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Bath, explained: “There is a tradition of investigating mental difficulties in autism. While this can be important for developing clinical interventions, there is also a need to understand psychological similarities between different groups. The University of Bath is doing ground-breaking work on this, showing that there is often more that unites than divides us, and our new neurodiversity research is another step in this direction.”

To end off

It is interesting to note that neurotypical parents share something so fundamental in common with their autistic children, friends, and partners. Following this study, it is now up to organizations to put better processes in place to accommodate autistic individuals

References:

University of Bath.(2022, April 12). New study finds autistic and non-autistic people share more in common [Press release] Retrieved from 

https://www.bath.ac.uk/announcements/new-study-finds-autistic-and-non-autistic-people-share-more-in-common/

Taylor, E. C., Farmer, G. D., Livingston, L. A., Callan, M. J., & Shah, P. (2022, ). Rethinking fast and slow processing in autism. Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science. Advance online publication. 

https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fabn0000734

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