Autistic artists give clues to cognition

Perception. 1997;26(1):93-6. doi: 10.1068/p260093.


Certain autistic children whose linguistic ability is virtually nonexistent cart draw natural scenes from memory with astonishing accuracy. In particular their drawings display convincing perspective. In contrast, normal children of the same preschool age group and even untrained adults draw primitive schematics or symbols of objects which they can verbally identify. These are usually conceptual outlines devoid of detail. It is argued that the difference between autistic child artists and normal individuals is that autistic artists make no assumptions about what is to be seen in their environment. They have not formed mental representations of what is significant and consequently perceive all details as equally important. Equivalently, they do not impose visual or linguistic schema-a process necessary for rapid conceptualisation in a dynamic existence, especially when the information presented to the eye is incomplete.

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Humans
  • Paintings*