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Author Notes:

Corresponding author: Cara R Damiano, cdamiano@email.unc.edu

JWB, MT, and GSD conceived of the study; CRD and JA collected and analyzed the data; CRD wrote the first draft of the manuscript; all authors read and approved the final manuscript.

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


Research Funding:

Assistance for this study was provided by the Participant Registry Core of the UNC Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (P30 HD03110).

This research was supported by NIMH K23 MH081285 (GSD), R21 MH085254 (GSD), R01 MH073402 (JWB and GSD), a Dennis Weatherstone Predoctoral Fellowship from Autism Speaks (CRD), and a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the Office for Undergraduate Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (JA).


  • Reward
  • Motivation
  • Decision making
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Dopamine

Adults with autism spectrum disorders exhibit decreased sensitivity to reward parameters when making effort-based decisions


Journal Title:

Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders


Volume 4, Number 1


, Pages 13-None

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Background Efficient effort expenditure to obtain rewards is critical for optimal goal-directed behavior and learning. Clinical observation suggests that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may show dysregulated reward-based effort expenditure, but no behavioral study to date has assessed effort-based decision-making in ASD. Methods The current study compared a group of adults with ASD to a group of typically developing adults on the Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task (EEfRT), a behavioral measure of effortbased decision-making. In this task, participants were provided with the probability of receiving a monetary reward on a particular trial and asked to choose between either an "easy task" (less motoric effort) for a small, stable reward or a "hard task" (greater motoric effort) for a variable but consistently larger reward. Results Participants with ASD chose the hard task more frequently than did the control group, yet were less influenced by differences in reward value and probability than the control group. Additionally, effort-based decision-making was related to repetitive behavior symptoms across both groups. Conclusions These results suggest that individuals with ASD may be more willing to expend effort to obtain a monetary reward regardless of the reward contingencies. More broadly, results suggest that behavioral choices may be less influenced by information about reward contingencies in individuals with ASD. This atypical pattern of effort-based decision-making may be relevant for understanding the heightened reward motivation for circumscribed interests in ASD.

Copyright information:

© 2012 Damiano et al.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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