Social affiliation motives modulate spontaneous learning in Williams syndrome but not in autism

Vivanti, Giacomo ORCID: 0000-0002-4034-9157, Hocking, Darren ORCID: 0000-0003-1143-8190, Fanning, Peter AJ ORCID: 0000-0002-6074-5130 and Dissanayake, Cheryl (2016) Social affiliation motives modulate spontaneous learning in Williams syndrome but not in autism. Molecular Autism, 7. ISSN 2040-2392


Background: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those with Williams syndrome (WS) have difficulties with learning, though the nature of these remains unclear. Methods: In this study, we used novel eye-tracking and behavioral paradigms to measure how 36 preschoolers with ASD and 21 age- and IQ-matched peers with WS attend to and learn novel behaviors (1) from the outcomes of their own actions (non-social learning), (2) through imitation of others' actions (social learning), and across situations in which imitative learning served either an instrumental function or fulfilled social affiliation motives. Results: The two groups demonstrated similar abilities to learn from the consequences of their own actions and to imitate new actions that were instrumental to the achievement of a tangible goal. Children with WS, unlike those with ASD, increased their attention and imitative learning performance when the model acted in a socially engaging manner. Conclusions: Learning abnormalities in ASD appear to be linked to the social rather than instrumental dimensions of learning.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1186/s13229-016-0101-0
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3105 Genetics
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4207 Sports science and exercise
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords autism spectrum disorder, ASD, childhood development, Williams syndrome, WS, social affiliation motives, social learning, non social learning
Citations in Scopus 32 - View on Scopus
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