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Durham e-Theses
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Dimensions of the Self-Concept in Autism Spectrum Disorder

GRISDALE, EMMA,ELIZABETH (2014) Dimensions of the Self-Concept in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (Dimensions of the Self-Concept in Autism Spectrum Disorder) - Accepted Version


The self-concept can be separated into the physical self-concept (concerned with the self as a physical being) and the psychological self-concept (involving mental states, attitudes and beliefs). People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are thought to have an intact physical self-concept and an impaired psychological self-concept. Very little experimental work has previously been conducted directly comparing the physical and psychological self-concepts in ASD. This comparison is the primary aim of this thesis.

Chapters 1-3 utilise a self-referencing paradigm to investigate the strength of the self-referencing effect in relation to the physical and psychological self-concepts. Chapter 1 demonstrates the presence of the self-reference effect in typically developing adults in both physical and psychological domains. Chapter 2 shows that adults with ASD display self-referencing effect in both domains, while chapter 3 demonstrates that children with ASD (aged 8 – 10) show the self-referencing effect in the physical domain only. Chapter 4 sought to verify the existence of an unimpaired physical self-concept in ASD using the rubber hand illusion. Children with ASD performed at the same level as a comparison group. Chapters 5 and 6 used an autobiographical memory interview and a self-description task respectively to compare and contrast the physical and psychological self-concepts in ASD. On both these tasks, participants with ASD displayed impairments in the psychological domain only. Chapter 7 concentrates on the psychological self-concept alone and investigates the ownership effect in ASD. It was found that participants with ASD were impaired on this task.

Overall, the results presented here seem to support the idea that the psychological self-concept is impaired in ASD, while the physical self-concept remains intact. These are some of the first studies to directly compare the strength of the physical and psychological self-concept in ASD.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Autism Spectrum Disorder, Self-concept, self-awareness, ownership, memory
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Science > Biological and Biomedical Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:02 Sep 2014 09:51

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