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Is there a relationship between imagination and repetitive behaviours in autistic adults?

Barrett, Sarah 2016. Is there a relationship between imagination and repetitive behaviours in autistic adults? PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

This thesis investigated the long held claim that reliance on routines and rituals (restricted and repetitive behaviours [RRB]) is related to a difficulty with flexibly generating novel ideas (imagination) in those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The sparse body of previous research into this relationship has yielded equivocal findings. Therefore the main aim of this thesis was to address the question: what is the nature of the relationship, if any, between imagination and RRBs in individuals with ASD? In order to test this relationship, I developed the first self-report measure of RRBs suitable for use with autistic adults, the Adult Repetitive Behaviours Questionnaire-2 (RBQ-2A), which has since been published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. In Study One I tested the RBQ-2A with neurotypical (NT) adults and showed that it is a reliable and valid measure of RRB, comprising two components: repetitive motor behaviours (RMB) and insistence on sameness (IS). Study Two showed that autistic adults scored significantly higher on the RBQ-2A compared to NT adults, and in a larger sample of autistic adults (Study Three), three components were identified: RMB, repetitive sensory behaviours (RSB) and IS. In Study Four, significant associations between RBQ-2A score and the imagination subscale of the Autism-Spectrum Quotient were found; although this relationship was unstable. More convincingly, participants who reported not playing pretend as a child showed significantly higher levels of IS, and a more limited pattern of self-chosen activities, compared to participants who did play pretend. Finally, a range of imagination measures were administered to a small sample of autistic adults (Study Five). There was a great deal of variation in performance on imagination tasks, but none of these measures correlated with each other. There were also no significant relationships between these tasks and the RBQ-2A. However, 89% of participants reported both impoverished past pretend play and a limited pattern of self-chosen activities. In summary, in this thesis I showed that the conceptualisation of imagination in ASD is incomplete and suggested a conceptualisation of imagination for future research, comprising the key components of generativity, novelty and flexibility. I also showed that the RBQ-2A is a reliable and valid self-report measure of RRBs in autistic adults. Finally, in terms of the nature of the relationship between imagination and RRBs, I provided evidence that this relationship is restricted to IS and past pretend play; that is, individuals with ASD who showed poor pretend play as children go on to behave in a more restricted manner in later life. However, this is a weak relationship, and individuals with ASD may still show high levels of creativity in other domains.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 12 May 2017
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 09:49
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/100542

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