Cecil Gibb Seminar: An Integrated Self-Categorization model of Autism


In this talk, I will present our recently published Integrated Self-Categorization model of Autism (ISCA; Skorich & Haslam, 2022). This model brings together the cognitive–perceptual and social–communication features of autism – previously thought to have distinct genetic, neurobiological and cognitive aetiologies – under a single explanatory framework. Specifically, ISCA proposes that the social-communication features of autism, related to theory of mind dysfunction, emerge from the cognitive-perceptual features, related to enhanced perceptual functioning and weak central coherence, via a difference in the self-categorization process. I will present the assumptions on which the model is based and will show how a set of precise, testable hypotheses logically follow – including a set of novel hypotheses that do not emerge from existing models of autism. I will then run through a number of direct empirical tests of these hypotheses, which, taken together, provide strong empirical support for ISCA. I will conclude by discussing the implications of the model for understanding autism, including its neurobiological and developmental underpinnings, and for intervention to improve the lives of autistic people.


Daniel Skorich is a lecturer in the Research School of Psychology, ANU. Daniel completed his undergraduate studies and his PhD at the ANU. His PhD thesis, titled Motivated but Confounded Tacticians: Revisiting the Relationship between Categorization and Cognitive Resources challenged the dominant Cognitive Miser/Motivated Tactician perspective on stereotyping and impression formation, and proposed a novel integrated model of these phenomena. After a number of years teaching Criminal Psychology at the ANU, Daniel moved to the University of Queensland (UQ) and took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship attached to Professor Alex Haslam’s Laureate Fellowship on Social Identity and Health. In his time at UQ, Daniel developed the Integrated Self-Categorization model of Autism (ISCA; Skorich & Haslam, 2022), which brings together facets of autism previously understood to have distinct aetiologies. Daniel has also pursued research on face processing; person perception; shared attention; gaze cueing; smoking behaviour; self-complexity buffering; suicidality in autism; driving and hazard perception; persuasion; outgroup homogeneity; and personality, among other topics. Daniel will be spending most of the second part of 2022 writing a book – Person as Category Theory (PACT): A New Paradigm for Categorization in Social Psychology (with Dr Ken Mavor, to be published by Routledge in late 2023) – which argues for a more expansive understanding of the categorization process than that which currently underpins much of social psychology.