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Bolis, Dimitris; Schilbach, Leonhard (2018): Observing and participating in social interactions: Action perception and action control across the autistic spectrum. In: Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Vol. 29: pp. 168-175
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Autism is a developmental condition, characterized by difficulties of social interaction and communication, as well as restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. Although several important conceptions have shed light on specific facets, there is still no consensus about a universal yet specific theory in terms of its underlying mechanisms. While some theories have exclusively focused on sensory aspects, others have emphasized social difficulties. However, sensory and social processes in autism might be interconnected to a higher degree than what has been traditionally thought. We propose that a mismatch in sensory abilities across individuals can lead to difficulties on a social, i.e. interpersonal level and vice versa. In this article, we, therefore, selectively review evidence indicating an interrelationship between perceptual and social difficulties in autism. Additionally, we link this body of research with studies, which investigate the mechanisms of action control in social contexts. By doing so, we highlight that autistic traits are also crucially related to differences in integration, anticipation and automatic responding to social cues, rather than a mere inability to register and learn from social cues. Importantly, such differences may only manifest themselves in sufficiently complex situations, such as real-life social interactions, where such processes are inextricably linked.