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Personality traits, autobiographical memory and knowledge of self and others: A comparative study in young people with autism spectrum disorder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sally Robinson, Patricia Howlin, Ailsa Russell

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-367
Number of pages11
JournalAutism
Volume21
Issue number3
Early online date9 Jul 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

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Abstract

The relationship between dissociable components of autobiographical memory (e.g. semantic personality traits and episodic memory retrieval) and other cognitive skills that are proposed to enable one to develop a sense of self (e.g. introspection) have not previously been explored for children with autism spectrum disorder. This study compared autobiographical memory (semantic and episodic) and knowledge of self (internal/external self-knowledge and introspection/mentalising abilities) in children (aged 11-18 years) with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder and typically developing controls (total N = 48). Novel and standard tasks were employed. Compared to typically developing controls, young people with autism spectrum disorder had autobiographical memory difficulties that were characterised by a reduction in the retrieval of semantic personality traits, with more initial prompts required to facilitate episodic memory retrieval and fewer episodic memories containing emotional and sensory information. Knowledge of the self and others was also impaired, with reduced introspection and poorer mentalising abilities. Young people with autism spectrum disorder were also identified as presenting with an atypical relationship between autobiographical memory and self-knowledge, which was significantly different from typically developing controls. Test performance is discussed in relation to the functions of autobiographical memory, with consideration of how these cognitive difficulties may contribute to clinical practices and the social and behavioural characteristics of autism spectrum disorder.

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