The Public Perception of Autism
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Design: 2 x 2 between subjects design, where 121 participants were randomly allocated to one of four experimental conditions; ‘Adult + no information’, ‘adult + no information’, ‘child + no information’ and ‘child + information’. Methods: An anonymous online questionnaire was generated, using two video clips from the movies Rain Man and Miracle Run. Participants were asked to watch the clips and provide answers for an emotional assay, Autism Spectrum Quotient – Shortened (ASQ-S) and Autism Knowledge Survey – Revised (AKS-R). This was done in order to measure the resulting stigmatising attitudes the participant may have had. Results: Our main experimental analysis found a statistically significantly higher ‘helping’ and ‘sympathy’ scores in participants who were shown the autistic adult in comparison to participants who were shown the autistic child. There was no significant effect of information provision. Participant ASQ-S scores were found to significantly negatively correlate with sympathy and helping scores, whilst significantly positively correlating with anger scores. Male participants also gave statistically significantly higher ASQ-S scores in comparison to female participants. There was a significant effect of previous exposure to autistic individuals, where anger and fear scores were significantly lower and helping scores significantly higher in participants with previous exposure. AKS-R scores were also statistically significantly higher in those with previous exposure. Conclusions: Participants who witnessed the autistic adult gave less stigmatising attitudes than those who witnessed the autistic child; however there was no effect of information provision. Participants who demonstrated more autistic tendencies had a more stigmatising attitude towards the autistic individual they witnessed in the video clip. Lastly, exposure to autistic individuals was found to significantly improve attitudes towards autistic individuals.