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Reputation Management: Evidence for Ability But Reduced Propensity in Autism

Authors

  • Eilidh Cage,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), Department of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK
    2. Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck College, London, UK
    • Address for correspondence and reprints: Eilidh Cage, Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), Department of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London, 55–59 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0 NU. E-mail: e.cage@ioe.ac.uk

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  • Elizabeth Pellicano,

    1. Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), Department of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK
    2. School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
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  • Punit Shah,

    1. Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck College, London, UK
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  • Geoffrey Bird

    1. MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK
    2. Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London, UK
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  • The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Abstract

Previous research has reported that autistic adults do not manage their reputation, purportedly due to problems with theory of mind [Izuma, Matsumoto, Camerer, & Adolphs]. The current study aimed to test alternative explanations for this apparent lack of reputation management. Twenty typical and 19 autistic adults donated to charity and to a person, both when alone and when observed. In an additional manipulation, for half of the participants, the observer was also the recipient of their donations, and participants were told that this observer would subsequently have the opportunity to donate to them (motivation condition). This manipulation was designed to encourage an expectation of a reciprocal “tit-for-tat” strategy in the participant, which may motivate participants to change their behavior to receive more donations. The remaining participants were told that the person watching was just observing the procedure (no motivation condition). Our results replicated Izuma et al.'s finding that autistic adults did not donate more to charity when observed. Yet, in the motivation condition, both typical and autistic adults donated significantly more to the observer when watched, although this effect was significantly attenuated in autistic individuals. Results indicate that, while individuals with autism may have the ability to think about reputation, a reduced expectation of reciprocal behavior from others may reduce the degree to which they engage in reputation management. Autism Res 2013, ●●: ●●–●●. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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