Understanding Behavioural Rigidity in Autism Spectrum Conditions: The Role of Intentional Control

J Autism Dev Disord. 2017 Mar;47(3):714-727. doi: 10.1007/s10803-016-3010-3.


Although behavioural rigidity belongs to the core symptoms of autism spectrum conditions, little is known about its underlying cognitive mechanisms. The current study investigated the role of intentional control mechanisms in behavioural rigidity in autism. Autistic individuals and their matched controls were instructed to repeatedly choose between two simple cognitive tasks and to respond accordingly to the subsequently presented stimulus. Results showed that autistic participants chose to repeat tasks more often than their controls and when choosing to switch, they demonstrated larger performance costs. These findings illustrate that when required to make their own choices, autistic people demonstrate rigidity at different performance levels, suggesting that intentional control mechanisms might be important for a better understanding of behavioural rigidity in autism.

Keywords: Autism; Cognitive control; Intentions; Task switching; Voluntary action.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self-Control*
  • Young Adult