Journal Article Attitudes toward risk and ambiguity in patients with autism spectrum disorder

Fujino, Junya  ,  Tei, Shisei  ,  Ryu-ichiro, Hashimoto  ,  Itahashi, Takashi  ,  Ohta, Haruhisa  ,  Kanai, Chieko  ,  Okada, Rieko  ,  Kubota, Manabu  ,  Nakamura, Motoaki  ,  Kato, Nobumasa  ,  Takahashi, Hidehiko

2017-08 , BioMed Central
ISSN:2040-2392 (electronic)
Description
Although the ability to make optimal decisions under uncertainty is an integral part of everyday life, individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently report that they experience difficulties with this skill. In behavioral economics, researchers distinguish two types of uncertainty to understand decision-making in this setting: risk (known probabilities) and ambiguity (unknown probabilities). However, it remains unclear how individuals with ASD behave under risk and ambiguity, despite growing evidence of their altered decision-making under uncertainty. We therefore extended previous research by studying the attitudes of those with ASD toward risk and ambiguity in both positive and negative contexts (i.e., gain and loss). In gain contexts, no significant difference was observed between the groups in risk attitudes, but ambiguity aversion was attenuated in ASD. In loss contexts, ambiguity attitudes did not significantly differ between the groups, but the ASD participants were less risk-seeking compared with the controls. In addition, insensitivity to the context change under risk and ambiguity in ASD was both significantly associated with poor social skills. These results improve our understanding of altered decision-making under uncertainty by disentangling the attitudes toward risk and ambiguity in ASD individuals. Applying behavioral economics tools may provide insights into the mechanisms underlying behavioral disturbances in ASD.

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