American Sociological Association

Why Social Psychology Needs Autism and Why Autism Needs Social Psychology: Forensic and Clinical Considerations

We know a lot about why the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has risen so dramatically since the 1960s. However, social science and social psychology in particular fall short in the analysis of autistic behavior, the real-life manifestations of the disorder. In this address, I suggest that unless we tackle behavior in interaction, rather than as emanating from individuals, we cannot analytically comprehend behavior as a socially real and holistic entity. The particular phenomena under investigation is transpositioning, or how a neurotypical (NT) professional initiates a sequence of action (first position) involving a recipient who has ASD. Then, the person with ASD fashions a response (second position) that is resistive or noncooperative. However, the NT professional subsequently fashions an action that portrays the ASD person’s second position or responsive behavior as an initiation or feature independent of what may have prompted it. Moreover, in reporting on the event in police, clinical, or other records, there is an elision of the prior initiations or first position actions such that the person with ASD is shown to have manifested ostensibly autonomous and anomalous behavior requiring interventions or remediation.

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Douglas W. Maynard





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