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Journal Article

Far from action blind: Representation of others´ actions in individuals with autism


Prinz,  Wolfgang
Department Psychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Sebanz, N., Knoblich, G., Stumpf, L., & Prinz, W. (2005). Far from action blind: Representation of others´ actions in individuals with autism. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 22(3-4), 433-454. doi:10.1080/02643290442000121.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0010-B432-F
It has been suggested that theory of mind may rely on several precursors including gaze processing, joint attention, the ability to distinguish between actions of oneself and others, and the ability to represent goal-directed actions. Some of these processes have been shown to be impaired in individuals with autism, who experience difficulties in theory of mind. However, little is known about action representation in autism. Using two variants of a spatial compatibility reaction time (RT) task, we addressed the question of whether high-functioning individuals with autism have difficulties in controlling their own actions and in representing those of others. Participants with autism showed automatic response activation and had no difficulties with response inhibition. When two action alternatives were distributed among pairs of participants, participants with autism represented a co-actor's task, showing the same pattern of results as the matched control group. We discuss the possibility that in high-functioning individuals with autism, the system matching observed actions onto representations of one's own actions is intact, whereas difficulties in higher-level processing of social information persist.