Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Dr. Cheryl Dickter

Committee Members

Dr. Joshua Burk

Dr. Raymond McCoy


The present study sought to examine university students’ judgments about and behavior towards an individual they perceived to be on the autism spectrum versus an individual who they perceived not to be. Furthermore, the study measured implicit and explicit biases towards autistic individuals and the implications those biases had for behaviors directed towards individuals they perceived were autistic. Participants (n = 112) completed the study in two separate research sessions, spaced several weeks apart. In Part 1 of the study, participants completed measures of implicit and explicit bias. In Part 2, participants were asked to discuss a neutral prompt with a confederate whom they believed had a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or did not have this diagnosis. Following that interaction, participants rated their own behavior and their perceptions of the confederate. Trained research assistants coded non-verbal and verbal behaviors of the participants recorded during the interaction, including behaviors such as eye contact, arm openness, and smiling. Results indicated that participants who perceived more autistic traits in their interaction partner had more negative perceptions of their partner’s social ability and were less willing to interact with them further. Additionally, some prejudiced behaviors such as fidgeting or speech errors varied depending on whether the participant believed the confederate was autistic and, if so, whether they thought so based on a label of an autistic diagnosis or the presentation of behaviors consistent with autism stereotypes. Finally, participants demonstrated implicit and explicit biases against autistic individuals, although those biases did not predict overall behavior. This research helps enhance our understanding of prejudicial judgments and behaviors directed towards autistic individuals and discusses the implications for this prejudice on social and academic success of students with this diagnosis.

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Creative Commons License
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