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Autistic Children Are Sensitive to Feelings

A new research effort has determined children with autism will tell white lies to protect other people’s feelings.

They also are not very good at covering up their lies, according to a Queen’s University study.

The study, conducted by psychology professor Beth Kelley and developmental psychology PhD student Annie Li, is one of the first scientific studies of lying and autism.

“The results are surprising because there is a notion that children with autism have difficulty appreciating the thoughts and feelings of other people, so we didn’t expect them to lie to avoid saying things that may hurt others,” says Dr. Kelley.

In one test, children with autism were told they were going to get a great gift, and were then handed a bar of soap. When asked if they liked their gift, most nodded or said yes instead of saying they were disappointed to get soap.

Researchers refer to this as pro-social lying, lies told to maintain good relations with others.

In a second test, children were given audio clues and asked to guess a hidden object. Most guessed the easy clues, for instance, a chicken when they heard a chicken clucking. But an intentionally difficult clue — Christmas music and an Elmo doll — was used as a test for lying.

After the Christmas music was played, the tester left the room. The tester returned and asked the children if they had peeked at the object.

Both autistic and non-autistic children were equally likely to lie that they had not peeked. But when asked what they thought the object was, children without autism realized giving the correct answer would reveal they peeked, so they were more likely to lie and say “Santa” or “Christmas tree.”

Source: Queen’s University

Autistic Children Are Sensitive to Feelings

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Autistic Children Are Sensitive to Feelings. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 26, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/10/11/autistic-children-are-sensitive-to-feelings/19454.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.