Associations between autistic traits, depression, social anxiety and social rejection in autistic and non‑autistic adults

Emine Gurbuz, Deborah Riby, Mikle South, Mary Hanley

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Autistic people frequently experience negative judgements from non‑autistic people, often fuelled by misconceptions that autistic people lack empathy. Understanding responses to negative social judgement among autistic people is crucial because of the potential negative impact on wellbeing and future interactions. We investigated the role of autistic traits, social anxiety, and depression on behavioural indices of social rejection in 20 autistic (AUT; 11 males) and 40 non‑autistic (N‑AUT;21 males) university students. Participants completed the Social Judgement Task (SJT) where they predicted whether they were liked by another person, then received feedback on whether those evaluations were correct. Participants also completed an Age Judgement Task (AJT) where they estimated the age of the pictured person. The AUT group had lower positive expectation scores, meaning less tendency to predict being liked. Across the whole sample, higher social anxiety predicted greater tendency to anticipate rejection from others, not autistic traits. These findings suggest early experiences of rejection might lead to a negative self‑bias in autistic people and emphasise the importance of using a transdiagnostic approach by showing that social anxiety rather than autistic traits is associated with expectation of social rejection.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9065
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2024

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