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Jul 26, 2021

Understanding Social Cognition in Autism with Dr. Sue Fletcher-Watson and Dr. Catherine Crompton (video)

How can new research in autism illuminate our understanding of social intelligence?

By Templeton Staff

Dr. Sue Fletcher-Watson and her colleague Dr. Catherine Crompton are studying social intelligence in autism. They want to discover how autistic people interact with each other and to learn more about interactions with non-autistic people.

Autism is a way of being that differs in the way that the world is processed by the body. The different perception of stimulus modulates the way the autistic person interacts with others and the world. It is common, in mixed social situations, for people with autism to tune their behavior to the expectations of the non-autistic. This effort to simulate expectation in order to comfort the other is an exhausting endeavor.

The autism spectrum defines people based on their level of need. The linear nature of this idea is now seen as inaccurate and is being replaced with the term "autism constellation." It’s a better way to understand the diverse nature of individuals.

The research team decided to focus their experiment on the transfer of information. The findings showed that the transfer of information between autistic subjects was just as effective as the non-autistic. When the group was divided between autistic and neurotypical people, that’s where the communication of information and personal rapport suffered.

Dr. Fletcher-Watson states, “Increasingly, now, autistic people are setting up their own support networks and groups. We don’t want to separate autistic people from the neurotypical but we do want to create opportunities for autistic people to be together on their own terms.”

This video is a 2020 Sharecare/Emmy Award Winner.

Discover the podcast version of this episode.

Learn more about TWCF-funded research projects related to this episode: here and here

Highlights from this installment of our award-winning “Stories of Impact” video series:

  • “Because there is a majority of people who perceive the world in one way, it doesn't mean that people with different neurodivergences are wrong or impaired in the way that they perceive it.”-Dr. Catherine Crompton
  • The discoveries from the social experiments give us a better understanding of the nature of the social deficit between autistic and neurotypical people. The call now is for more autistic teachers and role models that can build better rapport with those in the autistic constellation.
  • “We celebrate difference because it enriches our lives. Diverse groups of people create more creative solutions and have more fun together.”-Dr. Sue Fletcher-Watson

Read the transcript from the interview conducted by journalist Richard Sergay featuring Dr. Sue Fletcher-Watson, developmental psychologist, director of the Salvesen Mindroom Centre at the University of Edinburgh and founder of DART research site; and Dr. Catherine Crompton, neuropsychologist and Chancellors Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences.

Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Stories of Impact” videos by journalist and senior media executive Richard Sergay feature human stories and critical perspectives on breakthroughs about the universe’s big questions. The inspiring narratives and observations in these award-winning videos portray the individual and societal impacts of the projects that bring to life TWCF-supported research.