Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 10, pp 4193–4208 | Cite as

Enter the Wild: Autistic Traits and Their Relationship to Mentalizing and Social Interaction in Everyday Life

  • Tobias SchuwerkEmail author
  • Larissa J. Kaltefleiter
  • Jiew-Quay Au
  • Axel Hoesl
  • Clemens Stachl
Original Paper


Theories derived from lab-based research emphasize the importance of mentalizing for social interaction and propose a link between mentalizing, autistic traits, and social behavior. We tested these assumptions in everyday life. Via smartphone-based experience sampling and logging of smartphone usage behavior we quantified mentalizing and social interaction in our participants’ natural environment. Mentalizing occurred less frequently than reasoning about actions and participants preferred to mentalize when alone. Autistic traits were negatively correlated with communication via smartphone. Yet, they were not associated with social media usage, a more indirect way of getting in touch with others. Our findings critically inform recent theories on social cognition, social behavior, and the role of autistic traits in these phenomena.


Autism Experience sampling method Mentalizing Mobile sensing Theory of mind 



Funded by LMUexcellent. For their invaluable help we thank Nadja Krenz, Nina Plenk, Stefanie Dangl, Sarah Tichi, Ramona Hofmann, Jana Wiechmann, Paul Mayer, Stephanie Günzinger, Phuong-Anh Vu, Daniel Buschek, Mike Fayer, April Moeller, Caroline Zygar, Irina and Christian Jarvers.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The ethics committee of the Department of Psychology and Education of LMU Munich approved the study.

Informed Consent

The participants gave informed written consent to participate in the study.

Supplementary material

10803_2019_4134_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (82 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 82 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Developmental PsychologyLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of Statistics, Computational StatisticsLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  3. 3.Media Informatics GroupLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  4. 4.Department of Psychology, Methods and AssessmentLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMunichGermany

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