Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 7, pp 2506–2515 | Cite as

Autism Spectrum Traits Linked with Reduced Performance on Self-Report Behavioural Measures of Cognitive Flexibility

  • Natalia Albein-Urios
  • George J. Youssef
  • Melissa Kirkovski
  • Peter G. Enticott
Original Paper


Deficits in cognitive flexibility are thought to underpin the core symptom of repetitive and restricted patterns of behaviour in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Studies investigating this relationship, however, report inconsistent results. This is partly due to the variable nature of measures used to assess the construct of flexibility. The main purpose of this study was to investigate whether ASD traits differentially predict cognitive flexibility performance on lab-based neurocognitive measures relative to behavioural self-reports in a non-clinical sample of young adults. Our results indicate that ASD traits exclusively predict performance on behavioural self-reports of cognitive flexibility. These findings highlight the possibility that behavioural self-reports are a better index than lab-based neurocognitive measures to capture cognitive flexibility impairments in individuals with ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder traits Cognitive flexibility Lab-based measures Behavioural self-report Autism quotient 



This research was supported by the Faculty Research Development Grants, Deakin University (Australia). NAU was supported by a Faculty of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme from Deakin University (Australia). PGE was supported by a Career Development Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia).We would like to thank the research team and the participants of the study.

Author Contributions

NAU conceived and designed the study, conducted the experimental procedures, participated in the statistical analysis and wrote the first draft of the manuscript; GY participated in the interpretation of the data, performed the statistical analysis and helped to draft the manuscript; MK participated in the design of the study and helped to draft the manuscript. PGE participated in the design and coordination of the study and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors contributed to and have approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10803_2018_3503_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 26 KB)
10803_2018_3503_MOESM2_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 14 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin Child Study Centre, School of PsychologyDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Adolescent HealthMurdoch Childrens Research InstituteMelbourneAustralia

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