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Autistic Adults Are More Accurate In Decision Making, Study Says

Recent research suggests that people with autism are indeed more consistent in their choices and decision making tasks than the neurotypical population.

Autistic Adults Are More Accurate In Decision Making, Study Says

Autism is a developmental and bio-neurological disorder

Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders. Symptoms of this disorder depend on the levels of disability and include social problems like difficulty in communication, repetitive behaviors and limited interest in most activities. These signs are typically recognised in the first two years of life and can hurt the individual's ability to function socially, at school or work, or at other areas of life.

Some people are mildly impaired by its symptoms, while others can become severely disabled. According to the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) every 1 in 68 children has been identified with some form of ASD. There are 10% children who suffer from ASD in India with 1-1.5% or 1 in 66 children having autism between ages 2 and 9.

People with autism spectrum usually show a reduced sensitivity to contextual information in perceptual tasks, but new research from University of Cambridge, suggests that this reduced sensitivity may actually lead to more consistent choices in high-level decision-making tasks. The findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, indicate that they are less susceptible to the effects of decoy options when evaluating and choosing the "best" product among several options relative to individuals without autism.

Also read: New Brain Scan Can Now Detect Autism In Infants As Old As 6 Months

"People with autism are indeed more consistent in their choices than the neurotypical population. From an economic perspective, this suggests that people with autism are more rational and less likely to be influenced by the way choices are presented," says psychology researcher George Farmer.

Farmer and University of Cambridge co-authors William J. Skylark and Simon Baron-Cohen noticed that numerous studies have compared the performance of individuals with ASC and neurotypical individuals on a variety of low-level perceptual tasks. People with autism are thought to focus more on detail and less on the bigger picture -- this is often found in more perceptual studies, for instance by showing that people with autism are less susceptible to some visual illusions. Relatively little research had examined their performance in the realm of decision making so far, so Farmer explains that they wanted to know if this tendency of detail would apply to higher level decision making tasks.

The study included 90 adults with autism and 212 neurotypical adults required to participate in another online decision-making study.

The data revealed that, compared with neurotypical participants, participants with ASC made more consistent choices and made fewer switches in their selections.

In a second experiment, the researchers recruited participants from the general population. Their results showed an attenuated pattern similar to that seen in the first experiment: Participants who scored high on autistic traits were more likely to make consistent choices compared with low-scoring participants.

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Together, the findings indicate that individuals with Autism are less likely to show a cognitive bias that often affects their neurotypical peers.

The researchers say that the findings suggest that people with autism might be less susceptible to having their choices biased by the way information is presented to them. For instance, via marketing tricks when choosing between consumer products. The results also indicate that the reduced sensitivity to context that is associated with ASC may extend well beyond low-level cognitive processes, shedding new light on the nature of "autistic cognition".

"Altered preferences in a choice task involving verbally described consumer products would suggest the need for a broader characterization and integrated theorizing across levels and domains of processing," they concluded.

(With inputs from IANS)

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