#AA Autism & Infering Implied Meanings


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Who: Wilson & Bishop
Journal: Autism Research
Published: 2021
Title: “Second guessing yourself all the time about what they really mean…”: cognitive difference between autistic and non-autistic adults in understanding implied meaning
Study: This study was looking at how autistic people deal with “implied meanings”, which is where the meaning of a communication is not explict, but is something that you must infer from context. They assessed 71 autistic and 120 allistic people on a test of implied meaning called the Implicature Comprehension Test (ICT), and they accounted for peoples core language abilities. The autistic participants had above average core language abilities.

Autistic people had a categoric preference to select “don’t know”, and they selected this answer twice as often as allistic participants. However, if this option was removed, then autistic people often arrived at the correct (expected) interpretation. They were more inclined to avoid making normative inferances when there was not enough information to be sure, even though when they did make an assumption it was correct 90% of the time.

One participant said:
“I can make a really good guess at what people mean, but the anxiety surrounding all the possible meanings is so exhausting”.

The autistic people’s preference for not making assumptions based on incomplete or uncertain data appeared to be a fact of being autistic, rather than something which varies with other autistic characteristics.

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