Date of Completion


Embargo Period



autism, social anxiety, emerging adults

Major Advisor

Marianne Barton

Associate Advisor

James Green

Associate Advisor

Kimberli Treadwell

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


Social phobia (SP) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are separate disorders, but may involve similar types of difficulty with social interaction. In order to investigate the degree to which these disorders differ, we conducted a study of emerging adults (N=79) who displayed significant levels of subthreshold traits of social anxiety and autism, based upon self-report measures (Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale- Revised; Ritvo et al., 2010; Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory; Beidel, Dancu, & Stanley, 1989). Participants were divided into four groups, based first on previously established cutoff scores, as well as on an alternative set of cutoffs established for this sample. In the initial analyses, the four groups included individuals with few SP or ASD traits (Control; n=24), with significant levels of ASD traits (n=8), with significant levels of SP traits (n=10), and with significant SP and ASD traits (n=37). Subsequent analyses examined 40 participants who were selected using more stringent cutoffs. Participants completed two conversation tasks, a public speaking task, and a facial emotion recognition task. We expected that individuals displaying ASD and SP traits would perform worst across all tasks and those individuals with ASD or SP traits only would show significant differences in performance compared to the ASD/SP group. Our results, however, suggest that detecting differences between individuals with SP, ASD, and both SP and ASD traits is difficult at the subthreshold level. The study was limited by the use of self-report measures to determine group membership, as well as by differences in group sizes.