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Neurodivergent intersubjectivity: distinctive features of how autistic people create shared understanding

Heasman, Brett and Gillespie, Alex ORCID: 0000-0002-0162-1269 (2018) Neurodivergent intersubjectivity: distinctive features of how autistic people create shared understanding. Autism. ISSN 1362-3613

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1362361318785172


Autistic people are neurologically divergent, yet approaches to studying autism are framed by neurotypical definitions of being social. Using the concept of intersubjectivity, which conceptualises a variety of ways of socially relating, we investigate distinctive features of how autistic people build social understanding. A total of 30 members of a charity supporting adults with autism were video-recorded during a social activity they enjoyed, namely collaborative video gaming. Mapping the coherence, affect and symmetry of each conversational turn revealed shifting patterns of intersubjectivity within each interaction. Focussing on clusters of consistent and fragmented turns led us to identify two features of neurodivergent intersubjectivity: a generous assumption of common ground that, when understood, led to rapid rapport, and, when not understood, resulted in potentially disruptive utterances; and a low demand for coordination that ameliorated many challenges associated with disruptive turns. Our findings suggest that neurodivergent intersubjectivity reveals potential for unconventional forms of social relating and that a within-interaction analysis is a viable methodology for exploring neurodivergent communication. Future research should examine the varieties of neurodivergent intersubjectivity, with associated problems and potentials, and how those forms of intersubjectivity can be enabled to flourish, particularly in autistic-to-neurotypical encounters.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 the Authors
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2018 13:46
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:40
Projects: ES/J500070/1
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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