Limitations in social anticipation are independent of imaginative and Theory of Mind abilities in children with autism but not in typically developing children
Anticipating future interactions is characteristic of our everyday social experiences, yet has received limited empirical attention. Little is known about how children with autism spectrum disorder, known for their limitations in social interactive skills, engage in social anticipation. We asked children with autism spectrum disorder and their typically developing counterparts to consider an interaction with another person in the near future. Our results suggest that children with autism spectrum disorder and typically developing children performed similarly when anticipating the age, gender, and possible questions of another person, but children with autism spectrum disorder struggled more to anticipate what they would say in response to an anticipated interaction. Furthermore, such responses were robustly associated with imaginative capacities in typically developing children but not children with autism spectrum disorder. Our findings suggest that the cognitive mechanisms of social anticipation may differ between these groups.