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Peers Influence Prosocial Behavior in Adolescent Males with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Abstract

Peer influence has a profound impact on decision-making in typically developing adolescents. In this study, we examined to what extent adolescent males (age 11–17 years; N = 144) with and without autism (ASD) were influenced by peer feedback on prosocial behavior, and which factors were related to individual differences in peer feedback sensitivity. In a public goods game, participants made decisions about the allocation of tokens between themselves and their group—in absence or presence of peer feedback. Adolescents with and without ASD were sensitive to peer feedback on prosocial behavior. More autism traits and social interest were associated with less sensitivity to antisocial feedback, suggesting that peer feedback creates opportunities for social adjustment in those with and without ASD.

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Notes

  1. Note. There were no systematic differences between the ASD and TD groups in the variation of displayed prosocial behavior during the task. Overall, participants employed different strategies in the game; although most varied their behavior over trials, some always donated nothing or (nearly) all of their tokens.

  2. Note. If we do not include FSIQ, ASD traits are no longer a significant predictor in the regression model. This suggests that intelligence compensates for ASD traits.

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Acknowledgments

We are very grateful to the entire adolescence research team for their help in data collection. We thank De Tinne for a great collaboration and insights in working with adolescents with ASD. Finally, we gratefully acknowledge Eva Collins for her help in the translation of the Social Reward Questionnaire.

Author Contributions

JVH conceived of the study, participated in its design, coordination, data collection and interpretation, performed the statistical analyses and drafted the manuscript; EVD conceived of the study, participated in its design and interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript; EAC conceived of the study, participated in its design and interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript; LS participated in the design and coordination of the study, and provided critically important intellectual content to the manuscript; CR conceived of the study, participated in its design and interpretation of the data, and helped draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Funding

This research is funded by a NWO (Nederlandse organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) ResearchTalent Grant (406-11-019 Crone & Van Hoorn).

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Correspondence to Jorien Van Hoorn.

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All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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

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Van Hoorn, J., Van Dijk, E., Crone, E.A. et al. Peers Influence Prosocial Behavior in Adolescent Males with Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 47, 2225–2237 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3143-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3143-z

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Peer influence
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Adolescence