Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 291–300 | Cite as

Autobiographical Memory and Social Problem-solving in Asperger Syndrome

  • Lorna Goddard
  • Patricia Howlin
  • Barbara Dritschel
  • Trishna Patel


Difficulties in social interaction are a central feature of Asperger syndrome. Effective social interaction involves the ability to solve interpersonal problems as and when they occur. Here we examined social problem-solving in a group of adults with Asperger syndrome and control group matched for age, gender and IQ. We also assessed autobiographical memory, on a cueing task and during social problem-solving, and examined the relationship between access to specific past experiences and social problem-solving ability. Results demonstrated a social problem-solving impairment in the Asperger group. Their solutions were less detailed, less effective and less extended in time. Autobiographical memory performance was also impaired with significantly longer latencies to retrieve specific memories and fewer specific memories retrieved in comparison to controls.


Autobiographical memory  Social problem-solving  Asperger syndrome 



This research was supported by funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), Ref. RES-000-22-0008. We are very grateful to all who participated in the study.


  1. Blair, R. J. R., Frith, U., Smith, N., Abell, F., & Cipolotti, L. (2002). Fractionation of visual memory: agency detection and its impairment in autism. Neuropsychologia, 40(1), 108–118.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blacher, J., Kraemer, B., & Schalow, M. (2003). Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism: research concerns and emerging foci. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 16(5), 535–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boucher, J., & Lewis, V. (1989). Memory impairments and communication in relatively able autistic children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 30(1), 99–122.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boucher, J. (1999). Time and the implicit–explicit contiuum. Behavoural and Brain Sciences, 22(5), 758–785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowler, D. M. (1992). Theory of mind in Asperger syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 33(5), 877–893.Google Scholar
  6. Bowler, D. M., Gardiner, J. M., & Grice, S. J. (2000). Episodic memory and remembering in adults with Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(4), 295–304.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Channon, S., Charman, T., Heap, J., Crawford, S., & Rios, P. (2001). Real-life-type problem-solving in Asperger’s syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31(5), 461–469.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dunn, L. M., Dunn, L. M., Whetton, C., & Burley, L. (1997). British picture vocabulary scale. (2nd ed.) NFER-Nelson.Google Scholar
  9. Evans, J., Williams, J. M. G., O’Loughlin, S., & Howells, K. (1992). Autobiographical memory and problem-solving strategies of parasuicide patients. Psychological Medicine, 22, 399–405.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ghaziuddin, M., Ghaziuddin, N., & Greden, J. (2002). Depression in persons with autism: implications for research and clinical care. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(4), 299–306.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Goddard, L., Dritschel, B., & Burton, A. (1996). Role of autobiographical memory in social problem-solving and depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 609–616.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goddard, L., Dritschel, B., & Burton, A. (1997). Social problem-solving and autobiographical memory in non-clinical depression. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 36, 449–451.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Gunter, H. L., Ghaziuddin, M., & Ellis, H. D. (2002). Asperger syndrome: Tests of right hemisphere functioning and interhemisphere communication. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorder, 32(4), 263–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Klein, S., Chan, R. L., & Loftus, J. (1999). Independence of episodic and semantic self-knowledge: the case from autism. Social Cognition, 17(4), 413–436.Google Scholar
  15. Kopelman, M., Stanhope, N., & Kingsley, D. (1997). Temporal and spatial context memory in patients with focal frontal temporal lobe and diencephalic lesions. Neuropsychologia, 35(12), 1533–1545.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kremers, I. P., Spinhoven, P., & Van der Does, A. J. W. (2004). Autobiographical memory in depressed and non-depressed patients with borderline personality disorder. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 43, 17–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Marx, E. M., Williams, J. M. G., & Claridge, G. S. (1992). Depression and social problem-solving. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 101, 78–86.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Millward, C., Powell, S., Messer, D. & Jordan, R. (2000). Recall for self and other in Autism: Children’s memory for events experienced by themselves and their peers. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(1), 15–28.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Minshew, N. J., & Goldstein, G. (2001). The pattern of impaired memory functions in autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 42(8), 1095–1101.Google Scholar
  20. Montangero, J., Pons, F., & Cattin, J. (2000). The diachronic approach and solutions to interpersonal conflicts. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 18, 415–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Nelson, K. (1993) The psychological and social origins of autobiographical memory. Psychological Science, 4, 7–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. O’Connor, M., Butters, N., Miliotis, P., Eslinger, P. & Cermak, L. S. (1992). The dissociation of anterograde and retrograde amnesia in a patient with herpes-encephalitis. Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology, 14(2), 159–178.Google Scholar
  23. Ogden, J. A. (1993). Visual object agnosia, prosopagnosia, achromatopsia, loss of visual imagery and autobiographical amnesia following recovery from cortical blindness: case M.H. Neuropsychologia, 31(6), 571–589.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Platt, J. J., & Spivack, G. (1975). Manual for the Means-Ends Problem-Solving Test (MEPS): a measure of interpersonal problem-solving skill. Philadelphia, Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital.Google Scholar
  25. Rogers, T. B., Kuiper, N. A., & Kirker, W. S. (1977). Self-reference and the encoding of personal information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 677–688.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Scott, J., Stanton, B., Garland, A., & Ferrier, I. N. (2000). Cognitive vulnerability in patients with bipolar disorder. Psychological Medicine, 30(2), 467–472.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Suddendorf, T., & Corballis, M. C. (1997). Mental time travel and the evolution of human mind. Genetic, Social and General Psychology Mongraphs, 123(2), 133–167.Google Scholar
  28. Toichi, M., Kamio, Y., Okada, T., Sakihama, M. Youngstrom, E., Findling, R. & Yamomoto, K. (2002). A lack of self-consciousness in autism. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159(8), 1422–1424.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tulving, E. (1985). Memory and consciousness. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 26, 1–12.Google Scholar
  30. Williams, J. M. G. (1996). Depression and the specificity of autobiographical memory. In D. Rubin (Ed.) Remembering our past: studies in autobiographical memory. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 244–267.Google Scholar
  31. Williams, J. M. G. & Dritschel, B. (1992). Categoric and extended autobiographical memories. In M. A. Conway, D. C. Rubin, H. Spinnler, & W. A. Wagenaar (Eds.) Theoretical perspectives on autobiographical memory. Dordrecht Boston and London, Kluwer Academic, pp. 391–412.Google Scholar
  32. Wechsler, D. (1998). Wechsler memory scale (3rd ed). Psychological Corporation:, Harcourt Brace, London.Google Scholar
  33. Wechsler, D. (1999). Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence. Psychological Corporation: London.Google Scholar
  34. Wheeler, M. A., Stuss, D. T., & Tulving, E. (1997). Towards a theory of episodic memory: the frontal lobes and autonoetic consciousness. Psychological Bulletin, 121(3), 331–354.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorna Goddard
    • 1
  • Patricia Howlin
    • 2
  • Barbara Dritschel
    • 3
  • Trishna Patel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyGoldsmiths College, University of LondonLondonUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySt. Georges Hospital Medical SchoolLondonUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of St. AndrewsFifeScotland

Personalised recommendations