Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Autism, executive dysfunction, information processing, anthropomorphism, avatars, homophily, copresence, instructor satisfaction.

Major Advisor

Kristine Nowak, PhD

Associate Advisor

Kirstie Farrar, PhD

Associate Advisor

Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch, PhD

Field of Study

Communication Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The rates of autism diagnoses are increasing, as is the use of technology and online interactions, both inside and outside of the classroom. These online interactions frequently include a digital representation of the individual or avatar. Avatars can take a variety of forms and they can influence an individual’s perception of the source as well as the message presented (Nowak, Fox, & Ranjit, 2015). While research indicates that human-looking avatars increase learning and attention in typically developed populations, initial research suggests that this may not be true for those with autism (Begum, Serna, & Yanco, 2016; Moore & Calvert, 2000; Parsons & Mitchell, 2001). The present study will examine the effects of perceived anthropomorphism on information processing, for typically developed individuals and those with ASD. Social motivation theory predicts that those with ASD will perceive social potential differently than their typically developed peers (Chevalier et al., 2017), and this can in turn affect perceptions of anthropomorphism, homophily, and copresence. Finally, both information processing theory and the theory of executive dysfunction predict that differences in perceptions of social potential and anthropomorphism can influence instructor satisfaction.