An Economic and Rational Choice Approach to the Autism Spectrum and Human Neurodiversity

That is a new paper of mine, you will find the link here.  Here is the abstract:

This paper considers an economic approach to autistic individuals, as a window for understanding autism, as a new and growing branch of neuroeconomics (how does behavior vary with neurology?), and as a foil for better understanding non-autistics and their cognitive biases. The relevant economic predictions for autistics involve greater specialization in production and consumption, lower price elasticities of supply and demand, a higher return from choosing features of their environment, less effective use of social focal points, and higher relative returns as economic growth and specialization proceed. There is also evidence that autistics are less subject to framing effects and more rational on the receiving end of ultimatum games. Considering autistics modifies some of the standard results from economic theories of the family and the economics of discrimination. Although there are likely more than seventy million autistic individuals worldwide, the topic has been understudied by economists. An economic approach also helps us see shortcomings in the “pure disorder” models of autism.

Some of you have asked me about the recent debates over the forthcoming DSM-V and autism (and here pdf) , here is one bit:

It is still possible to adhere to a DSM approach for practical fieldwork, and “autism identification,” while rejecting it as our best possible understanding of autism.  Under one view, DSM does not “define” autism but rather the DSM standards provide useful information for identifying autistics who require assistance. Alternatively, in the context of both insurance companies and schools, DSM standards allow payments to be triggered if an individual is judged to be autistic according to the specified criteria. For systems of financial transfer to prove workable, perhaps the relevant legal definitions have to cite unfavorable outcomes rather than defining autism in a more fundamental way. We’ll return to this issue when we consider discrimination. For now the point is that the DSM standards don’t have to be applied to every autism-relevant question and should not be viewed as necessarily trumping other approaches.

The DSM standards also evolve. DSM-III defined autism differently than did DSM-IV and DSM-V will differ as well. It’s well known that the DSM process itself is, for better or worse, heavily influenced by various interest groups, including pharmaceutical lobbies. So DSM approaches have to be judged by some external standard and the cognitive profile approach (and a concomitant rational choice approach) can assist in this endeavor. Again, the DSM standard should not be construed as ruling out competing or more fundamental approaches.


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