Cultural differences in social communication and interaction: A gap in autism research

Autism Res. 2022 Feb;15(2):208-214. doi: 10.1002/aur.2657. Epub 2021 Dec 22.


Social communication and interaction deficits are a diagnostic criteria of autism and integral to practitioner and researcher conceptualization. Culture is an influential factor in expectations for, and demonstration of, social communication and interaction skills, but there is limited research published in autism journals on this topic. This paucity of autism research examining cultural factors related to social communication and interaction may contribute to known identification disparities for racial and ethnic populations minoritized by systemic factors and research bias. We call for increased commitment from researchers to recruit racially and ethnically minoritized participants, prioritize investigating cultural expectations and perceptions of social communication and interaction, and evaluate measures related to social communication for cultural and linguistic responsivity. LAY SUMMARY: A diagnosis of autism requires the presence of deficits in social communication and interaction. Examples of these behaviors and skills include holding a back-and-forth conversation, the use of nonverbal communicative behaviors (e.g., gestures), and developing and maintaining social relationships. Culture influences the expectations for, and presentation of, these behaviors. However, research on this topic is lacking. Conducting more research related to culture and social communication could help reduce the disparities in autism identification across racially and ethnically minoritized populations.

Keywords: culture; race and ethnicity; social communication.

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Communication
  • Ethnicity
  • Gestures
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations