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Review
, 364 (1522), 1393-8

Perception and Apperception in Autism: Rejecting the Inverse Assumption

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Review

Perception and Apperception in Autism: Rejecting the Inverse Assumption

Kate Plaisted Grant et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci.

Abstract

In addition to those with savant skills, many individuals with autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) show superior perceptual and attentional skills relative to the general population. These superior skills and savant abilities raise important theoretical questions, including whether they develop as compensations for other underdeveloped cognitive mechanisms, and whether one skill is inversely related to another weakness via a common underlying neurocognitive mechanism. We discuss studies of perception and visual processing that show that this inverse hypothesis rarely holds true. Instead, they suggest that enhanced performance is not always accompanied by a complementary deficit and that there are undeniable difficulties in some aspects of perception that are not related to compensating strengths. Our discussion emphasizes the qualitative differences in perceptual processing revealed in these studies between individuals with and without ASCs. We argue that this research is important not only in furthering our understanding of the nature of the qualitative differences in perceptual processing in ASCs, but can also be used to highlight to society at large the exceptional skills and talent that individuals with ASCs are able to contribute in domains such as engineering, computing and mathematics that are highly valued in industry.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Examples of stimuli used in grouping experiments. Note that circles in actual displays were red and blue (indicated by light and dark greys, respectively). The observer's task was to determine as quickly and accurately as possible whether the two bars were of the same or different orientations. Stimuli in (a), but not (b), are considered grouped by similarity for neurotypical observers.
Figure 2
Figure 2
(a) Reaction time and (b) accuracy data for the neurotypical children (filled squares) and children with ASCs (open circles).
Figure 3
Figure 3
Typical display sequences for the study of (a) magnocellular and (b) parvocellular function.

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