Autistic People May More Easily Ignore Cognitive Biases

Comparing bottles in grocery store aisleAutistic adults make more consistent choices, suggesting autism might make people less likely to be swayed by cognitive biases that affect their peers, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science.

Some autistic people argue that autism should not be treated as a disease or disability. Instead, they point to some of the benefits of autism and believe it should be treated as a form of neurodiversity. This study suggests autistic people may easily manage tasks with which other people struggle.

Do Autistic People Make More ‘Rational’ Choices?

The study compared 90 autistic adults to 212 neurotypical adults in an online decision-making study. Participants completed questionnaires to assess cognitive skills and autistic traits before completing the study.

The study paired 20 objects into groups of two. In each pair, the objects differed in at least two ways. Each pair was accompanied by a less desirable third “decoy” item. For example, a group might include three USB drives with different memory capacities and lifespans. The decoy object in each group would be objectively worse than the other two items.

Each pair was displayed twice, but the third object changed with the second viewing. Researchers then asked participants to pick the best object.

The most rational approach to choosing the “best” item renders the decoy object irrelevant. But cognitive biases can cause decoy objects to affect how people evaluate two similar objects. The results showed that neurotypical people were more vulnerable to these cognitive biases. They were more likely to switch their choice when the decoy object changed. Autistic people showed more consistency in their choices.

Autistic Individuals Show More Consistency

In a second trial, researchers performed a similar study. This time, they assessed only people who scored very high and very low on traits associated with autism. People with more traits of autism made more consistent decisions than those with few traits.

This suggests autistic people might be less vulnerable to the distraction of cognitive biases, enabling them to make more decisions based on rational analysis. The researchers say this finding is a clear demonstration of how autism may not always be a disability.


  1. Adults with autism make more consistent choices. (2017, June 27). Retrieved from
  2. Farmer, G. D., Baron-Cohen, S., & Skylark, W. J. (2017). People with autism spectrum conditions make more consistent decisions. Psychological Science, 095679761769486. doi:10.1177/0956797617694867

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  • Trey

    July 15th, 2017 at 8:25 AM

    In this case it seems that autism leaves one with a great ability!

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