Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 9, pp 2995–3009 | Cite as

Construction of Past and Future Events in Children and Adolescents with ASD: Role of Self-relatedness and Relevance to Decision-Making

  • Elisa CiaramelliEmail author
  • Silvia Spoglianti
  • Elena Bertossi
  • Nadia Generali
  • Francesca Telarucci
  • Raffaella Tancredi
  • Filippo Muratori
  • Roberta Igliozzi
Original Paper


We studied episodic memory and future thinking for self-relevant and other-relevant events at different levels of retrieval support, theory of mind, and delay discounting in ASD children and adolescents (ASDs). Compared to typically developing controls, ASDs produced fewer internal (episodic) but a similar number of external (semantic) details while remembering past events, imagining future events, and imagining future events happening to others, indicating a general impairment of event construction. This deficit was driven by group differences under high retrieval support, and therefore unlikely to depend on self-initiated retrieval/construction deficits. ASDs’ event construction impairment related to the severity of ASD symptoms, and to theory of mind deficits. ASDs, however, showed normal delay discounting, highlighting preserved forms of future-based decision-making in ASD.


Episodic memory Future thinking Autism spectrum disorder Delay discounting Theory of mind 



This work was supported by grants from the University of Bologna (Ricerca Fondamentale Orientata) to E.C., and by a ‘Ricerca Corrente’ (Annual research program) grant from the Italian Ministry of health to the IRCCS - Fondazione Stella Maris. We are grateful to all of participants who took part in this study and their parents. We thank Violetta Knyagnytska for serving as the second independent scorer for participants’ reports.

Author Contributions

EC, RI, SS, and EB conceived the study. All authors contributed to the study design. RI, SS, FT, and NG tested participants. EC and EB analyzed the data. EC wrote the paper. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisa Ciaramelli
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Silvia Spoglianti
    • 3
  • Elena Bertossi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nadia Generali
    • 2
  • Francesca Telarucci
    • 2
  • Raffaella Tancredi
    • 3
  • Filippo Muratori
    • 3
    • 4
  • Roberta Igliozzi
    • 3
  1. 1.Dipartimento di PsicologiaUniversità di BolognaBolognaItaly
  2. 2.Centro di Studi e Ricerche in Neuroscienze CognitiveCesenaItaly
  3. 3.IRCCS Stella Maris FoundationCalambroneItaly
  4. 4.Dipartimento di Medicina Clinica e SperimentaleUniversità di PisaPisaItaly

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