Reputation Management and the ‘Observer Effect’ in Persons with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

PhD Thesis

Gaynor, Danielle 2013. Reputation Management and the ‘Observer Effect’ in Persons with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsGaynor, Danielle
TypePhD Thesis

The literature suggests that opportunities for reputation enhancement can elicit
pro-social behaviour. Public declarations of moral judgments can provide just
such opportunities. Even subtle surveillance cues have been associated with
more disapproval of anti-social behaviour in typically developed and intact adults
(Bourrat, Baumard et al., 2011). However this has not been tested in adults with
autistic spectrum presentations.
The current qualitative study explored these questions using a semi-structured
interview incorporating a Retrospective Verbal Protocol, based upon an on-line
social evaluation survey, which was simultaneously piloted for potential future use
in quantitative research. Two groups of adults, with and without diagnoses of
autistic spectrum presentations, evaluated behaviours in four social domains
(‘moral’, ‘convention’, ‘disgust’, and ‘ambiguous’), using two sets of vignettes.
One set had ‘eyes’ embedded in a logo (the other was plain). Qualitative and
quantitative data were collected.
Thematic analysis and descriptive statistics suggest that both groups tended to
perform similarly on the overall social evaluation tasks, with subtle differences
appearing in some social domains and in consideration of some moderating
factors. However, the qualitative data suggests that the groups did not always
use comparable strategies to reach similar conclusions. The current study
appears to support theoretical social domain distinctions and predictions (e.g.
Nichols, 2002; Leslie et al., 2006) that both explicit and implicit processing routes
may be used in moral evaluation.
‘Observer effect’ quantitative results were inconclusive, indicating that the pilot
survey tool is inadequate in its current form. However, an interesting finding was
the similar performance by both groups on the tasks. Qualitative data suggests
that participants from both groups were aware of and actively engage in
reputation management. For the ASP group this appears to challenge Theory of
Mind theories of autism and assumptions about reputation issues. These findings
have potentially important theoretical and clinical implications.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintNov 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Dec 2014
Publisher's version
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