Readability and first impressions of autistic and non-autistic adults by non-autistic observers

May 2023
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First impressions are important. Autistic people receive more negative first impressions than non-autistic people (Sasson et al., 2017). Non-autistic observers are less accurate at reading autistic others than non-autistic others (Sheppard et al., 2016), and this accuracy is associated with first impressions such that “less readable” individuals receive more negative first impressions than those who are “more readable” (Alkhaldi et al., 2019). Participants (N = 219) completed a readability task, guessing what a person in a video is responding to based on their reaction. Participants then received false feedback on their performance of that task to manipulate their perceptions of readability. After the false feedback, participants completed a first impressions measure for every person in the videos from the readability task. Each participant completed this for a block of videos of autistic people and a block of videos of non-autistic people. The non-autistic participants were significantly less accurate in guessing what the autistic people in the videos were responding to than the non-autistic people. Autistic individuals also received significantly less favorable first impressions compared to the non-autistic individuals. There was minimal evidence of an effect of false feedback in the non-autistic group, and required the inclusion of an item which did not correlate to the rest of the items in that measure. No effect of false feedback was found on first impressions of autistic individuals, but more research in this area is warranted.

Psychology, Social