The complexity of human organizations poses the challenge of understanding and navigating social hierarchies. If 'social impairment' is a defining feature of autism, then these challenges may be heightened for autistic persons. We reject the premise of social deficits but follow recommendations to investigate how autistic social behavior diverges from neurotypical norms. We review autistic writings and also scholarship on reputation management, non-conformity and moral reasoning to argue that autistic people dislike social hierarchies, find status-seeking illogical, prefer egalitarian relationships, and often seek to report wrong-doing by authorities. We outline three possible causes: (1) reduced social motivation; (2) emergent property of monotropism, special interests and deliberative cognitive style; (3) enhanced motivation to engage in egalitarian interactions. Our account has implications for characterizing atypical sociality in autism. The field has been deficit focused, but our review highlights autistic social strengths (e.g., less selfishness, moral rectitude, fairness, honesty, loyalty). Our account has implications for understanding difficult passages of autistic life such as popularity contests in high school, mixed messages in the workplace, and unsatisfying social interactions between neurotypes.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License