Journal of Autism

Journal of Autism

ISSN 2054-992X
Original Research

On the Asperger experience of interaction: Interpersonal dynamics in dyadic conversations

Melisa Stevanovic1*, Pentti Henttonen1, Sonja Koski1, Mikko Kahri1, Liisa Voutilainen1, Emmi Koskinen1, Taina Nieminen-von Wendt2, Pekka Tani3, Elina Sihvola3 and Anssi Perakyla1

*Correspondence: Melisa Stevanovic

1. University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Author Affiliations

2. NeuroMental, Helsinki, Finland.

3. Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.


We compared the patterns of affiliative and dominant behavior displayed in male dyads where one participant has Asperger's syndrome (AS) with those displayed in male dyads with two neurotypical (NT) participants. Drawing on interpersonal theory, according to which affiliation and dominance constitute two orthogonal axes of the "interpersonal circle," we used a computer-joystick apparatus to assess the participants' moment-to-moment affiliative and dominant behaviors throughout conversation. The patterns of affiliation and dominance were subsequently studied in relation to post-conversation questionnaires that targeted the interactional experiences of the participants in the two different types of dyads (AS dyads, NT dyads). We found the overall interpersonal notion of complementarity to hold for AS and NT dyads alike: greater affiliation in one participant invoked greater affiliation in the co-participant, and greater dominance invoked greater submissiveness in the co-participant. The AS and NT dyads, however, differed with regard to how affiliative and dominant behaviors related to each other during the time course of a single conversation. Furthermore, we found important differences between the AS and NT dyads in how the different patterns of affiliation and dominance were experienced by the participants. For example, a high level of affiliation synchrony was experienced in more negative terms by the participants in the AS dyads than by those in the NT dyads, while a high level of dominance coordination was experienced in more positive terms by the participants in the AS dyads than by those in the NT dyads. The paper increases understanding of the details of the interactional deficits associated with AS and of the conditions in which AS participants may get maximally positive interactional experiences. More generally, our study highlights the necessity to take the study of individual differences in the experiences of patterns of affiliation and dominance into the official agenda of empirical interaction research.

Keywords: Interactional experience, interpersonal theory, affiliation, dominance, complementarity, Asperger syndrome, synchrony, coordination, computer-joystick method

ISSN 2054-992X
Volume 4
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