Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Psychology

Second Department

French Studies

Reader 1

Alan Hartley

Reader 2

Eric T. Haskell

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© 2012 Sarah C. Stringer

Abstract

Autism is a condition that receives considerable attention around the world. In France and the United States there are significant ruptures between the various groups treating individuals with the disorder. The current study first explored some of the reasons for these conflicts and then attempted to bridge French psychodynamic theories and English biological models of autism using cognitive measures. Specifically, this experiment examined multisensory integration and motor defense mechanisms in people with varying levels of autistic traits from a nonclinical population. Participants viewed a rubber hand that was stroked either synchronously or asynchronously with their own hand and rated the extent to which they felt that their hand resembled the rubber hand. It was hypothesized that the more autistic tendencies participants expressed, the less multisensory integration and embodiment they would exhibit through their reported feelings of the illusion. It was also expected that people with higher autistic traits would demonstrate rigid musculature through their performance on the Purdue Pegboard. Results partially supported the first hypothesis but did not support the second. The data revealed that individuals with higher autism scores experienced the asynchronous condition significantly more than those with lower autism scores. There was no difference in performance on the Purdue Pegboard task in relation to one’s reported levels of autism. Results are discussed in the context of efforts to integrate research and develop a more cohesive view of autism among the many parties involved in treating the disorder.

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