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Intelligence is often boiled down to a simple test score, representing core learning skills such as pattern detection and verbal fluency. However other forms of intelligence are essential for human behaviour. One such form is social intelligence – the repertoire of skills needed to engage effectively with others, in a way which is appropriate to the context. These skills are often referred to in psychology by the umbrella term “social cognition”. This encompasses abilities such as emotion recognition, effective interpersonal communication and theory of mind. The second aspect of social intelligence is appreciation of the social context. Examples of social contexts include the cultural context (e.g. Japan vs. the UK), the relationship context (e.g. friend vs. stranger) and the environmental context (e.g. school versus home).
This proposal presents a bold re-conceptualisation of intelligence within a neurodiversity framework, challenging the notion that there is only one legitimate form of human intelligence. Specifically, we will explore social intelligence in autism, drawing together diverse findings to build a hypothesis that autistic social skills may be enhanced in an autism-specific cultural context: i.e. when interacting with other people on the autism spectrum. This hypothesis will be rigorously tested with experimental, quantitative descriptive and qualitative methods. In particular we will adapt a cultural learning paradigm to explore transmission of information between autistic/autistic pairs compared with mixed and comparison pairs.