New research published in Current Biology has highlighted a key failure in neurotypical social cognition: the inability to discriminate between actions which are useful and actions that are useless but commonly observed.
The researchers compared the performance of neurotypical and healthy autistic children in a task where an adult demonstrated how to open a container to extract a toy. The demonstration included necessary actions (like removing the lid), but also “silly” actions that served no purpose, such as tapping the lid twice before opening it.
The neurotypical children were far more likely than the autistic children to repeat the unnecessary steps, although both groups of children were equally likely to perform the necessary steps needed to extract the toy.
Researchers believe that these findings may reflect a failure of the neurotypical brain’s “mental immune system”. While the ability to imitate others is vital for learning, especially in young children, the ability to suppress imitation of behaviors that are useless or harmful is equally important. The diminished ability to avoid imitation of the “silly” behaviors may indicate indicate a defect in this system, which could result in an increased susceptibility to peer pressure and “social contagion”, factors which predict many of the high-risk behaviors seen in sufferers of neurotypicality later in adolescence and adulthood.
For some reason the linked article is confused enough to think that *autism* is the horrible tragedy, not *allism,* but nthope explains the true tragedy of allism and the failures of their mental immune systems quite well.