Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 805–815 | Cite as

Cognitive Set Shifting Deficits and Their Relationship to Repetitive Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Haylie L. Miller
  • Michael E. Ragozzino
  • Edwin H. Cook
  • John A. Sweeney
  • Matthew W. Mosconi
Original Paper


The neurocognitive impairments associated with restricted and repetitive behaviors (RRBs) in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are not yet clear. Prior studies indicate that individuals with ASD show reduced cognitive flexibility, which could reflect difficulty shifting from a previously learned response pattern or a failure to maintain a new response set. We examined different error types on a test of set-shifting completed by 60 individuals with ASD and 55 age- and nonverbal IQ-matched controls. Individuals with ASD were able to initially shift sets, but they exhibited difficulty maintaining new response sets. Difficulty with set maintenance was related to increased severity of RRBs. General difficulty maintaining new response sets and a heightened tendency to revert to old preferences may contribute to RRBs.


Cognitive flexibility Insistence on sameness Repetitive behavior 



This research was funded by the NICHD Autism Center of Excellence P50HD055751, MH092696, and Autism Speaks. These funding agencies had no role in study design, data analysis, or manuscript preparation. The data presented in this manuscript have not been published elsewhere, and the authors do not have any conflicts of interest directly related to these data to disclose.

Supplementary material

10803_2014_2244_MOESM1_ESM.doc (98 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 95 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Haylie L. Miller
    • 1
  • Michael E. Ragozzino
    • 2
  • Edwin H. Cook
    • 3
  • John A. Sweeney
    • 4
  • Matthew W. Mosconi
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Physical TherapyUniversity of North Texas Health Science CenterFort WorthUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Center for Autism and Developmental DisabilitiesUniversity of Texas Southwestern Medical CenterDallasUSA

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