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Georgescu, A. L.; Koeroglu, S.; Hamilton, A. F. de C.; Vogeley, K.; Falter-Wagner, C. M. and Tschacher, W. (2020): Reduced nonverbal interpersonal synchrony in autism spectrum disorder independent of partner diagnosis: a motion energy study. In: Molecular Autism, Vol. 11, No. 1, 11

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Abstract

Background: One of the main diagnostic features of individuals with autism spectrum disorders is nonverbal behaviour difficulties during naturalistic social interactions. The 'Interactional Heterogeneity Hypothesis' of ASD proposes that the degree to which individuals share a common ground substantially influences their ability to achieve smooth social interactions. Methods To test this hypothesis, we filmed 29 autistic and 29 matched typically developed adults engaged in several conversational tasks. Windowed cross-lagged correlations were computed using the time series of motion energy of both individuals in a dyad. These coefficients were then compared across the three dyad types that were homo- or heterogenous with respect to diagnosis: pairs of two autistic individuals, two typically developed individuals or pairs of one autistic and one typically developed person. Results We found that all dyad types achieved above-chance interpersonal synchrony, but that synchrony was more expressed in typical dyads compared to both autistic and mixed dyads. Limitations The method presented here provides only one, albeit objective and robust, approach to explore synchrony. The methodological choices as well as the lack of consideration for other communication modalities may limit our interpretation of the findings. Moreover, the sample size is small with respect to exploring associations between synchrony and various outcome and social skill measures. Conclusions: The present results do not provide support for the Interactional Heterogeneity Hypothesis given that autistic individuals do not coordinate better when interacting with another autistic individual, compared to when interacting with a typical individual.

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