Adolescent Social Competence in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Associations with Perceptions and Metaperceptions of Peers

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
L. V. Usher1, C. A. Burrows2, D. S. Messinger2 and H. A. Henderson3, (1)Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, (2)University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, (3)University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, CANADA
Background:  During social interactions with peers, individuals form perceptions of their peers and impressions of what peers think about them -- metaperceptions (Laing et al., 1966). These abilities are important for social success during adolescence when self-identity formation, social transitions, sensitivity to peer evaluations, and perspective-taking skills increase rapidly. Research on perception and metaperception in those with ASD is limited, and may offer insight into mechanisms underlying heterogeneity in social competence observed in adolescents with ASD.

Objectives:  We examined associations between perceptions/metaperceptions and observed social behavior during a dyadic interaction using the Perceptions and Metaperceptions Questionnaire (PAMQ).

Methods:  Fifty adolescents interacted in pairs consisting of one adolescent with ASD (Mage=14.66, SD=1.43; MVerbalIQ=105.00, SD=14.79) and a gender-, age-, and verbal IQ-matched unfamiliar adolescent without ASD (Mage=14.21, SD=1.34; MVerbalIQ=108.48, SD=13.83). Dyads were instructed to get to know each other for five minutes. During the interaction, participants were coded for Social Reciprocity (seeking, eye contact, conversational efficacy, and social ease) and Social Initiative (proportion of time talking, reversed latency to first utterance, reversed latency to first spontaneous utterance, and sharing). Immediately following the interaction, each participant completed the Perceptions and Metaperceptions Questionnaire (PAMQ) indexing perceptions of the peer (e.g., “How cool is ___?”) and predictions of peer’s impressions (e.g., “How cool does ___ think you are?”). Positively-valenced words indicating liking (e.g., happy) and negatively-valenced words indicating disliking (e.g., boring) were analyzed separately.

Separate Actor-Partner Interdependence Models (APIMs) were used to estimate effects of a peer’s perceptions on an adolescent’s social behavior, as well as the effect of the adolescent’s metaperception on his/her own social behavior.

Results: Path coefficients for all four models are listed in Table 1. Regardless of diagnostic group, adolescents who predicted higher liking ratings from peers displayed more Social Reciprocity, b=.03, t(33)=3.13, p=.004. Adolescents whose peers reported liking them more tended to display more Social Reciprocity, b=.02, t(32)=1.77, p=.09. The more adolescents predicted their peer to dislike them, the less Social Reciprocity adolescents displayed, b=-.03, t(34)=-2.40, p=.02.

Across both groups, adolescents who predicted higher liking ratings from peers displayed significantly more Social Initiative, b=.03, t(37)=3.09, p<.01. Adolescents whose partners disliked them more displayed significantly less Social Initiative, b=-.05, t(36)=-.02, p<.01.

Conclusions:  Findings suggest that the way that adolescents believes they are perceived as well as the way that they are actually perceived are important factors relating to social competence. Adolescents with positive beliefs about how they are perceived by peers may subsequently have more reciprocal social interactions. Conversely, adolescents who have reciprocal social interactions with peers may develop positive ideas of how they are perceived by peers. Directionality of effects involving perceptions, metaperceptions, and social competence should be further investigated in future longitudinal studies.