Any thoughts on Social Motivation Theory of Autism?

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Rocket123
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17 Jul 2015, 10:16 pm

I recently came across this paper <click>.

The abstract includes the following: “The idea that social motivation deficits play a central role in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has recently gained increased interest. This constitutes a shift in autism research, which has traditionally focused more intensely on cognitive impairments, such as Theory of Mind deficits or executive dysfunction, while granting comparatively less attention to motivational factors. This review delineates the concept of social motivation and capitalizes on recent findings in several research areas to provide an integrated picture of social motivation at the behavioral, biological and evolutionary levels. We conclude that ASD can be construed as an extreme case of diminished social motivation and, as such, provides a powerful model to understand humans’ intrinsic drive to seek acceptance and avoid rejection”.

While part of the theory seems to fit (at least for me), it seems to be lacking from a variety of perspectives (which are discussed in the paper). Anyhow, I was wondering where this theory stands (vis a vis other in vogue theories). Any ideas?



Marky9
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17 Jul 2015, 11:13 pm

It's interesting. I noted that it was published in 2012. I think I recall that articles like this that put forward a new idea are usually followed in subsequent issues by others, either in letters to the publication or additional study articles, that continue to shed light on the topic. I wonder what, if anything, the profession has since had to say about this theory.



ToughDiamond
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18 Jul 2015, 1:26 am

I'm still reading it, but so far:

1. I'm skeptical as to whether social motivation is particularly impaired in ASDers as a primary thing. Possibly in extreme cases and to a certain extent in some moderate cases, but my personal experience is that I was strongly interested in other kids as far back as I can remember, i.e. 3 years old. I've always had a strong desire for companionship, and it was only the increasing complexity of social demands as I became older that caused me to become more of a loner. I fought tooth and claw against becoming doomed to of a life of introverted isolation. The threat of loneliness has frequently haunted me.

2. "These behaviors emerge early in development with preschoolers spontaneously engaging in positive self-presentation, prosocial lies, and negative emotion concealment for politeness purposes." I had quite a bit of contact with preschoolers, and I don't recall them doing any such schmoozing. We were just natural, honest kids, saying what we thought, playing simple games, arguing, falling out, clowning about, laughing and crying.

Anyway, I'm commenting prematurely. I'll read on and see what else they say.



kraftiekortie
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18 Jul 2015, 6:56 am

I think the theory is plausible, as it pertains to some people. It was applicable to me as a child.

It should not be seen as something which is inevitable in autism, though. I've seen extreme desire to adapt to the Wider World.



starfox
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18 Jul 2015, 7:42 am

Hmm well I was not interested in other children till year 5 or 5th grade


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the_phoenix
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18 Jul 2015, 8:08 am

I'm always interested in making friends
and always have been ...
I also always manage to find some way
to offend people
without knowing that I did something offensive
until it's too late.

A major exception to this was my best friend
whom I lost to heart disease ...
she may have been Aspie too,
in any case, we understood each other.

Yes, I have empathy.
Yes, I want to make friends.
But somehow, that's often not enough.

...


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starfox
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18 Jul 2015, 8:17 am

:skull:

the_phoenix wrote:

A major exceptin to this was my best friend
whom I lost to heart disease ...
she may have been Aspie too,
in any case, we understood each other.

...


Awe that's really sad :(


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the_phoenix
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18 Jul 2015, 8:27 am

Thank you, starfox.

Each of us considered the other one to be "the better friend"
and that was such a gift.
I also know now what a real friendship is,
and that I'm capable of being a friend
as well as worthy of being someone else's.



Rocket123
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18 Jul 2015, 3:06 pm

ToughDiamond wrote:
I'm still reading it, but so far:

1. I'm skeptical as to whether social motivation is particularly impaired in ASDers as a primary thing. Possibly in extreme cases and to a certain extent in some moderate cases, but my personal experience is that I was strongly interested in other kids as far back as I can remember, i.e. 3 years old. I've always had a strong desire for companionship, and it was only the increasing complexity of social demands as I became older that caused me to become more of a loner. I fought tooth and claw against becoming doomed to of a life of introverted isolation. The threat of loneliness has frequently haunted me.

2. "These behaviors emerge early in development with preschoolers spontaneously engaging in positive self-presentation, prosocial lies, and negative emotion concealment for politeness purposes." I had quite a bit of contact with preschoolers, and I don't recall them doing any such schmoozing. We were just natural, honest kids, saying what we thought, playing simple games, arguing, falling out, clowning about, laughing and crying.

Anyway, I'm commenting prematurely. I'll read on and see what else they say.

The paper includes the following: “In the case of social theories then, it is important to compare the explanatory power of social motivation vs. social cognition in accounting for social deficits. The key difference between social motivation and social cognition accounts is one of causality. In the social motivation framework, diminished social interest is thought to deprive the developing child of social inputs and learning opportunities, which, ultimately, leads to diminished expertise in social cognition. In the ‘mindblindness’ framework, social impairments are explained by the fact that individuals who struggle to understand the intricate workings of the social world are likely to end up losing interest in social interactions.”

As I think about it, for me, it seems like the deficits in social cognition led to diminished social interest. Not the other way around. That is, I learned really young (probably as early as 3 or 4) that I was not “good” at social interactions. I became an observer of social interactions, as opposed to an active player. Ultimately, this led me to focus on other things that I could be successful at.

Marky9 wrote:
It's interesting. I noted that it was published in 2012. I think I recall that articles like this that put forward a new idea are usually followed in subsequent issues by others, either in letters to the publication or additional study articles, that continue to shed light on the topic. I wonder what, if anything, the profession has since had to say about this theory.

I am hoping that people who are active in autism research provide their insight as well.



btbnnyr
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18 Jul 2015, 4:06 pm

I think it is both decrease in social motivation and social cognition deficits for me.
I had both for as long as I or my parents can remember.


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ToughDiamond
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18 Jul 2015, 4:11 pm

Rocket123 wrote:
The paper includes the following: “In the case of social theories then, it is important to compare the explanatory power of social motivation vs. social cognition in accounting for social deficits. The key difference between social motivation and social cognition accounts is one of causality. In the social motivation framework, diminished social interest is thought to deprive the developing child of social inputs and learning opportunities, which, ultimately, leads to diminished expertise in social cognition. In the ‘mindblindness’ framework, social impairments are explained by the fact that individuals who struggle to understand the intricate workings of the social world are likely to end up losing interest in social interactions.”

As I think about it, for me, it seems like the deficits in social cognition led to diminished social interest. Not the other way around. That is, I learned really young (probably as early as 3 or 4) that I was not “good” at social interactions. I became an observer of social interactions, as opposed to an active player. Ultimately, this led me to focus on other things that I could be successful at.

Yes, that's my experience too, my social impairments caused a decrease in my social motivation. I'd like to probe the paper more deeply, to see where they get such a strange idea from, but it's not easy to do that. Its authors don't present any research directly to back up their claims, they just cite it with references, which is perfectly valid scientifically, but what happens when I try to track down their reasons for their assertions is that I get a lot of long papers to read, and in some cases it looks like I'd have to pay money to access them, which I'm not willing to do to track down a theory that seems so unlikely to be correct.



btbnnyr
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18 Jul 2015, 4:23 pm

I don't think decreased social motivation is strange or unlikely to be correct in the context of autism.
It is intuitive to me that autism may involve decrease in social motivation from the earliest stages of development.
It is unnatural to me that people with autism have high social motivation and want to be social, spend a lot of time around others, interacting with others, or sharing with others.


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ToughDiamond
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18 Jul 2015, 5:42 pm

btbnnyr wrote:
I don't think decreased social motivation is strange or unlikely to be correct in the context of autism.
It is intuitive to me that autism may involve decrease in social motivation from the earliest stages of development.
It is unnatural to me that people with autism have high social motivation and want to be social, spend a lot of time around others, interacting with others, or sharing with others.

I should have said "unlikely to be correct for me," though I also strongly suspect that the motivation defecit is not the root cause of the competence defecit for any of us.
I think you're saying that in your case both things were happening in parallel - reduced social motivation and reduced social competence. The authors of the paper are saying that the reduced motivation is the driver of the reduced competence, which seems to go further than is borne out by your own experience.

It can feel unnatural to me that ASDers have high social motivation too, to some extent, although my social motivation could be described as high, especially in the past. Depends on the specifics. I wince if they seem hell-bent on being the life and soul of the party, or if they seem to be trying to sublimate their individuality too much for the sake of fitting in with judgemental mainstreamers, and I hate this "come on, don't be antisocial!" thing when an Aspie just wants to sit an event out, but if they say "friendship is really important to me" or "I'll never feel quite whole if I don't have a relationship," I'm with them all the way.



btbnnyr
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18 Jul 2015, 6:34 pm

I think reduced social motivation could have caused reduced social cognition in my case.
Low social motivation from infancy likely contributed to reduced and delayed development of social cognition for me.


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ToughDiamond
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18 Jul 2015, 6:52 pm

Evidence? Not that I'm trying to contradict you at all. In my case my parents are dead so my evidence is limited to what I can remember from my very early years.

There's also this idea that NT kids do the schmoozing thing. Has anybody ever seen anything to back that up?