Brief Report: Reduced Optimism Bias in Self-Referential Belief Updating in High-Functioning Autism

  • Bojana KuzmanovicEmail author
  • Lionel Rigoux
  • Kai Vogeley
Brief Report


Previous research has demonstrated irrational asymmetry in belief updating: people tend to take into account good news and neglect bad news. Contradicting formal learning principles, belief updates were on average larger after better-than-expected information than after worse-than-expected information. In the present study, typically developing subjects demonstrated this optimism bias in self-referential judgments. In contrast, adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were significantly less biased when updating self-referential beliefs (each group n = 21, matched for age, gender and IQ). These findings indicate a weaker influence of self-enhancing motives on prospective judgments in ASD. Reduced susceptibility to emotional and motivational biases in reasoning in ASD could elucidate impairments of social cognition, but may also confer important cognitive benefits.


Autism Belief updating Optimism bias Rationality Judgment Learning 



We thank the teams of the Autism Outpatient Clinic and the Neuroimaging Lab at the University Hospital Cologne for the great work in clinical diagnosis and neuropsychological and experimental testing, especially Alexandra L. Georgescu and Kerstin Eßer. Furthermore, we thank Anneli Jefferson for valuable discussions and comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

Author Contributions

B. Kuzmanovic and K. Vogeley developed the study concept and the research question. B. Kuzmanovic developed the experimental design. B. Kuzmanovic and L. Rigoux performed the data analysis. B. Kuzmanovic drafted the manuscript, and K. Vogeley and L. Rigoux provided significant and extended further contributions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the local ethics committee of the Medical Faculty of the University of Cologne, Germany and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10803_2016_2940_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 15 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research CologneTranslational Neurocircuitry GroupCologneGermany
  2. 2.Research Center Juelich, Institute of Neuroscience and MedicineEthics in the Neurosciences (INM-8)JuelichGermany
  3. 3.Institute for Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of Zürich and ETH ZürichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital CologneCologneGermany
  5. 5.Research Center Juelich, Institute of Neuroscience and MedicineCognitive Neuroscience (INM-3)JuelichGermany

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