When social and action spaces diverge: A study in children with typical development and autism

Michela Candini, Virginia Giuberti, Erica Santelli, Giuseppe di Pellegrino, Francesca Frassinetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The space around the body has been defined as action space (peripersonal space) and a social space (interpersonal space). Within the current debate about the characteristics of these spaces, here we investigated the functional properties and plasticity of action and social space in developmental age. To these aims, children with typical development and autism spectrum disorders were submitted to Reaching- and Comfort-distance tasks, to assess peripersonal and interpersonal space, respectively. Participants approached a person (confederate) or an object and stopped when they thought they could reach the stimulus (Reaching-distance task), or they felt comfortable with stimulus' proximity (Comfort-distance task). Both tasks were performed before and after a cooperative tool-use training, in which participant and confederate actively cooperated to reach tokens by using either a long (Experiment 1) or a short (Experiment 2) tool. Results showed that in both groups, peripersonal space extended following long-tool-use but not short-tool-use training. Conversely, in typical development, but not in autism spectrum disorders children, interpersonal space toward confederate reduced following the cooperative tool-use training. These findings reveal that action and social spaces are functionally dissociable both in typical and atypical development, and that action but not social space regulation is intact in children with autism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1687-1698
Number of pages12
JournalAutism
Volume23
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

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