Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Cheryl Dickter

Committee Members

Josh Burk

Adrian Bravo

Robin Looft-Wilson


Autistic individuals are perceived more negatively than neurotypical individuals by non-autistic adults. The negative perceptions of neurotypical peers contributes to discrimination and social exclusion of autistic adults, which is detrimental to their mental and physical well-being. This study examined how simulated contact with an autistic individual could improve both explicit and implicit attitudes towards autistic individuals as a group. Neurotypical university students (n=153) imagined an interaction with an unfamiliar person who was either labeled as autistic or not and either displayed perseverative behavior, limited eye contact, or no described behavior. Those who imagined interacting with an individual labeled as autistic had reduced implicit bias towards autistic individuals compared to those who imagined interacting with an unlabeled person. Explicit attitudes were not improved by the manipulation and were more negative after imagined contact with someone who displayed an autistic behavior. Behavioral intentions to interact with autistic individuals in the future were greater when the imagined interaction partner was both labeled as autistic and displayed limited eye contact behavior. The implications of these findings for future prejudice reduction interventions and research into attitudes towards the autistic community are discussed.

Available for download on Thursday, May 09, 2024

On-Campus Access Only