Summary: A new study reveals people with ASD may be at higher risk of being manipulated as they find it more difficult to pick up social cues about deceit. Researchers say the ability to detect lies is significantly diminished in those with autism.
Source: University of Kent.
A new study shows that the ability to distinguish truth from lies is diminished in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – putting them at greater risk of being manipulated.
Researchers, led by Professor David Williams of the University of Kent, found that lie detection ability is ‘significantly diminished’ in those with a full ASD diagnosis. It is also related to how many ASD traits people in the general population have – the more traits, the poorer the deception detection ability.
Professor Williams, of Kent’s School of Psychology, and researchers from four other universities in the UK and US conducted experiments with participants exhibiting varying degrees of ASD and compared them to those who were deemed ‘neurotypical’ or not displaying autistic patterns of thought or behaviour.
Participants were shown a number of videos of people responding to questions about their earlier participation in an experiment during which they had an opportunity to cheat by looking at an answer sheet while the experimenter was out of the room. All the people in the video denied cheating, but some of them had actually looked at the answer sheet. Participants had to judge whether the people in each video were lying or not.
In one video shown to participants a liar responds ‘I guess no’ to the question ‘did any cheating occur when the experimenter left the room?’. Those with a diagnosis of ASD and those from the general population with a high number of ASD traits found it difficult to make an inference about deceit, even when such cues were available.
The researchers suggest that limited social engagement among people with ASD, as well as neurotypical people with a relatively high number of ASD traits, may result in a failure to learn the social cues that indicate deceit. It is important to consider whether training individuals with ASD to detect behavioural indicators of lying.
They conclude that ‘if such training were successful, it would represent a significant opportunity to enhance the lives of a group of people who, on the basis of our result and anecdotal reports, are clearly susceptible to exploitation.’
Source: Martin Herrema – University of Kent
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
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Original Research: Open access research for “Can you spot a liar? Deception, mindreading, and the case of autism spectrum disorder” by David M. Williams, Toby Nicholson, Catherine Grainger, Sophie E. Lind, and Peter Carruthers in Autism Research. Published April 27 2018.
Can you spot a liar? Deception, mindreading, and the case of autism spectrum disorder
Detection of deception is of fundamental importance for everyday social life and might require “mindreading” (the ability to represent others’ mental states). People with diminished mindreading, such as those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), might be at risk of manipulation because of lie detection difficulties. In Experiment 1, performance among 216 neurotypical adults on a realistic lie detection paradigm was significantly negatively associated with number of ASD traits, but not with mindreading ability. Bayesian analyses complemented null hypothesis significance testing and suggested the data supported the alternative hypothesis in this key respect. Cross validation of results was achieved by randomly splitting the full sample into two subsamples of 108 and rerunning analyses. The association between lie detection and ASD traits held in both subsamples, showing the reliability of findings. In Experiment 2, lie detection was significantly impaired in 27 adults with a diagnosis of ASD relative to 27 matched comparison participants. Results suggest that people with ASD (or ASD traits) may be particularly vulnerable to manipulation and may benefit from lie detection training.