Canisius Researchers Study Personality Traits in Autism Spectrum Disorder

February 8, 2019

BUFFALO, NY ‒ Researchers at the Institute for Autism Research and Department of Psychology at Canisius College have determined that individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those with elevated ASD characteristics in the general population are often low in key personality traits associated with important life outcomes. The results were published in the peer-reviewed international journal, Autism.

Researchers used meta-analysis to summarize the relationship between the Big Five personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability) and ASD across fourteen published studies. Findings indicated that ASD diagnosis and ASD characteristics are both related to lower levels of each personality trait.

According to Jennifer Lodi-Smith, PhD, lead author on the study: “The evidence from this meta-analysis suggests that the overall profile of traits in ASD puts individuals at risk for challenges across the lifespan.” The other lead author on the study, Jonathan D. Rodgers, PhD, comments: “The inclusion of personality trait assessments as part of a portfolio of clinical assessment tools has particular potential in helping to understand the life outcomes of individuals with ASD. The long-term purpose of our work is to explore if there are interventions for personality traits that may impact these life outcomes for adults with ASD.”

The researchers are continuing their research on personality in ASD. They recently received a federal grant, from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging. In this project,

Big Five personality traits are tested as potential indicators of positive aging outcomes in order to identify targets for future interventions for the understudied and underserved population of older adults with ASD.

The public is invited to participate in this important ongoing research at

Study participants complete a set of online surveys. A sub-sample will then complete a battery of in-person assessments. Participants will be characterized on ASD characteristics and personality traits alongside multiple domains of aging including physical health, cognitive performance, and psychological well-being.

A diagnosis of ASD is NOT necessary to participate in this study. Participation by individuals with varying degrees of ASD characteristics, from minimal to high, is essential to building the best possible data for the study. Participation from adults of all ages is welcome, with a particular interest in understanding older adults with characteristics of ASD.

ASD consists of core symptoms including social/social-communication impairments and restricted or repetitive behaviors and interests. These symptoms interfere with an individual’s daily functioning. Personality traits are one potential mechanism why individuals with ASD are at greater risk for challenges in physical health, cognitive aging, and psychological well-being.

Canisius College is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation and the premier private university in Western New York.