Group E-newsletter: When outcomes don’t replicate, autistic examine consultants | Spectrum
Illustration by Laurène Boglio
Hello and welcome to this week’s community newsletter! I am your host, Chelsey B. Coombs, the engagement editor of Spectrum.
You don’t often see a researcher promoting results that go back to their original research. But Victoria Southgate, a psychology professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, did just that on Twitter this week, and it got people’s attention.
This cross-laboratory replication error of our own work is now published https://t.co/5p8JS8CXY7 https://t.co/ZWDM00z1Zx
– Victoria Southgate ???????????? (@vhsouthgate) August 25, 2021
In 2007, Southgate and her colleagues used eye tracking on 20 young children when they were taking a “false belief” test.
Over the years, a number of studies have looked at how autistic and non-autistic participants of all ages fare on such tests. And the results have supported the idea that autistic people have more difficulty with the theory of mind or the ability to understand other people’s mental states.
But Southgate’s original results didn’t hold up when she and her team repeated their study using 2.5 times the sample size.
“We conclude that important evidence that has so far supported arguments for the existence of this competence can no longer fulfill this function,” the authors write in their 2021 paper. They add that the results show that only this particular experiment does not work in conjunction with this age group of participants and that other studies aimed at understanding false beliefs may still exist.
Uta Frith, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Development at University College London in the UK, called it a “sad but ultimately uplifting story.”
A sad but ultimately uplifting story. Heroic work by @vhsouthgate @dora_kampis @MikolajHernik https://t.co/YgAOcAivSP
– Uta Frith (@utafrith) August 25, 2021
“What a great team of model scientists who replicate their own work and acknowledge failed replications,” replied Candace Lapan, assistant professor of psychology at Wingate University in North Carolina.
Great job from @vhsouthgate and colleagues. What a great team of model scientists who replicate their own work and acknowledge failed replications. https://t.co/SCKZqn7CiJ
– Dr. Candace Lapan (you / you) (@CandaceLapan) August 25, 2021
Our next thread is from Connor Tom Keating, a graduate student at the University of Birmingham in the UK who wrote an opinion piece for Frontiers in Psychology on the benefits of participatory research with autistic people as counselors and why engaging them should go beyond tokenism.
Exciting Announcement! ⭐️An article I wrote as part of a special issue about societal priorities in autism research has now been published! Check it out here: https://t.co/FZY3CR14Is ???? 1/4
– Connor Keating (@ConnorTKeating) August 24, 2021
In the comment, Keating writes that some researchers may include autistic people, but only to “tick a box,” such as a participatory research request from a journal or funder.
“At best, these tokenistic approaches do not produce meaningful results for the community, and at worst, they offend and damage the relationship between autistic people and academics, resulting in non-participation in research,” Keating writes.
Keating also provided specific examples of what the involvement of autistic people in studies looks like in an advisory role from the creation of a research question to the dissemination of the results. As an example, he uses his own work with the Advisory Committee of the Birmingham Psychology Autism Research Team Consultancy Committee. In a study of language preferences in autistic people, this committee not only helped clear a questionnaire, but also pointed out how researchers relate to non-autistic people, be it “neurotypical”, “typical” or “non-autistic” , is just as important as it relates to autistic people.
“The input at this stage has not only improved the clarity of the participant-centric documents, but also clarified a priority for the community (to determine how we should relate to non-autistic people) and broadened the potential impact of our paper,” he writes .
Sophie Sowden, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Birmingham, tweeted that it was “a really great piece”.
Check out this really great article by @ConnorTKeating which discusses a very important community priority in #autism research – #participatory practices and why and how we can best and most fully implement them https://t.co/ 8e8PSH9RTg
– Dr. Sophie Sowden (@Sophie_Sowden) August 24, 2021
Sarah O’Brien, a research and policy researcher at the UK’s national charity for autism research, Autistica, wrote that it was “great to see increasing support for participatory research”.
It’s great to see that participatory research is increasingly supported and especially autistic people are centered in research, which was often about us, but not about us. https://t.co/888j5o0L0k
– Sarah O’brien (@Sarahmarieob) August 24, 2021
Saara Reiman, the founder of Kaiao, an organization that provides counseling and education services on autism and sensory sensitivities, tweeted that it was a “must-have for #autism professionals.”
Some VERY useful research. Must read for #autism professionals https://t.co/iFK45CHGIZ
– Saara Reiman (@ReimanSaara) August 24, 2021
If you missed our August 31 webinar with Laurent Mottron, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Montreal, Canada, who spoke about “Radically Changing Our Autism Research Strategy”, you can watch it now on our website.
And don’t forget to sign up for our September 28 webinar, where Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, will speak about goals in developing new drugs for autism – and the barriers facing researchers can come across.
That’s it for this week’s Spectrum Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social contributions in the field of autism research, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We meet next week!
Quote this article: https://doi.org/10.53053/JRMC6566