Correlation Between Autism and Anxiety in Social Situations

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CORRELATION OF ANXIETY IN SOCIAL SITUATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

Abstract

The study examined how individuals with autism often fail to successfully relate with others in social situations. Undergraduate Students of the University of Western Australia’s School of Psychology (N=472) participated in an online survey which included the Autism Quotient test (AQ), the Fear of Negative Evaluation Questionnaire (FNE) and the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS). The purpose of this was to measure the likelihood of a correlation between a high score on the Autism Quotient test and high scores on both the Fear of Negative Evaluation Questionnaire and the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale. It was predicted that individuals with autism would score high on the SIAS and FNE tests and therefore a link between autism and social anxiety could be established.

The Correlation of Anxiety in Social Situations and Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder The study examined how individuals with autism often fail to successfully relate with others in social situations. It is thought that either individuals with Autism were not interested in social activities or that individuals want to interact socially but lack the skills necessary for this. The term autism was originally introduced by the psychiatrist Kanner (1943) to explain a syndrome he observed in some of his child patients. Kanner identified the key features of autism, which include “impairments in social interaction and communication skills, coupled with unusual interest patterns and stereotyped behaviours.” (Schopler, E, Mesibov, G 1986 p6) He suggested that autism was an inborn fault, as he observed that symptoms were often present from a very young age. According to Simon Baron-Cohen “the core shortfall of autism is the autistic person’s incapability to use theory of mind.” (http://www.holah.co.uk/study/baroncohen/) Having a theory of mind is the capacity to recognize that other people have independent minds of their own. This is therefore a cognitive deficit. Simon Baron-Cohen argues that “impairments in the expansion of a theory of mind may cause the social, communicative, and imaginative impairments of people with autism” (http://www.holah.co.uk/study/baroncohen/) since a theory of mind is needed for standard growth in each of these three areas. The study conducted by the first year psychology students was a replica of previous studies and was used to observe the correlation between personality and psychological traits in order to establish the legitimacy of particular questionnaires’ in assessing character traits. The study aimed to show that individuals with autism want to interact in social situations but lack the abilities to do so. It was hypothesized that participants in this study who had a high Autism Quotient test score, would also have high scores on the Fear of Negative Evaluation Questionnaire (FNE) and the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS).

Method

Participants
The experiment was conducted using 472 Undergraduate students of the University of Western Australia who are studying first year Psychology. They participated in this study as part of the course requirements for first year psychology. The majority of the students were female and the estimated mean age is 20.17 years old.

Apparatus
The Materials included; a computer, a mouse, a keyboard and the internet.

The computer opened onto a web page which contained the instructions of the experiment. The participants then had to answer a series of 155 questions presented in a survey format. The questions are those from the MOCI, EDI-P, DAAS, PSWQ, AQ, FNE and SIAS tests. These tests involve a series of questions which are in a forced choice answer format. The questionnaires that this study concentrated on were the AQ, the FNE and the SIAS test. In the AQ test, there were 50 questions, each of which allowed the subject to...
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