Self-referenced memory, social cognition, and symptom presentation in autism

Heather A. Henderson, Nicole B. Zahka, Nicole M. Kojkowski, Anne P. Inge, Caley B. Schwartz, Camilla M. Hileman, Drew C. Coman, Peter C. Mundy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: We examined performance on a self-referenced memory (SRM) task for higher-functioning children with autism (HFA) and a matched comparison group. SRM performance was examined in relation to symptom severity and social cognitive tests of mentalizing. Method: Sixty-two children (31 HFA, 31 comparison; 8-16 years) completed a SRM task in which they read a list of words and decided whether the word described something about them, something about Harry Potter, or contained a certain number of letters. They then identified words that were familiar from a longer list. Dependent measures were memory performance (d′) in each of the three encoding conditions as well as a selfmemory bias score (d′ self-d′ other). Children completed The Strange Stories Task and The Children's Eyes Test as measures of social cognition. Parents completed the SCQ and ASSQ as measures of symptom severity. Results: Children in the comparison sample showed the standard SRM effect in which they recognized significantly more self-referenced words relative to words in the other-referenced and letter conditions. In contrast, HFA children showed comparable rates of recognition for self- and other-referenced words. For all children, SRM performance improved with age and enhanced SRM performance was related to lower levels of social problems. These associations were not accounted for by performance on the mentalizing tasks. Conclusions: Children with HFA did not show the standard enhanced processing of self- vs. other-relevant information. Individual differences in the tendency to preferentially process self-relevant information may be associated with social cognitive processes that serve to modify the expression of social symptoms in children with autism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)853-861
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Volume50
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 18 2009

Keywords

  • Autistic disorder
  • Self-referenced memory
  • Social cognition
  • Social symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Medicine(all)

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    Henderson, H. A., Zahka, N. B., Kojkowski, N. M., Inge, A. P., Schwartz, C. B., Hileman, C. M., Coman, D. C., & Mundy, P. C. (2009). Self-referenced memory, social cognition, and symptom presentation in autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 50(7), 853-861. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.02059.x