Atypical perception in autism: A failure of perceptual specialization?

Bat Sheva Hadad, Eugenia K. Goldstein, Natalie N. Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


We examined whether reduced perceptual specialization underlies atypical perception in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) testing classifications of stimuli that differ either along integral dimensions (prototypical integral dimensions of value and chroma), or along separable dimensions (prototypical separable dimensions of value and size). Current models of the perception of individuals with an ASD would suggest that on these tasks, individuals with ASD would be as, or more, likely to process dimensions as separable, regardless of whether they represented separable or integrated dimensions. In contrast, reduced specialization would propose that individuals with ASD would respond in a more integral manner to stimuli that differ along separable dimensions, and at the same time, respond in a more separable manner to stimuli that differ along integral dimensions. A group of nineteen adults diagnosed with high functioning ASD and seventeen typically developing participants of similar age and IQ, were tested on speeded and restricted classifications tasks. Consistent with the reduced specialization account, results show that individuals with ASD do not always respond more analytically than typically developed (TD) observers: Dimensions identified as integral for TD individuals evoke less integral responding in individuals with ASD, while those identified as separable evoke less analytic responding. These results suggest that perceptual representations are more broadly tuned and more flexibly represented in ASD. Autism Res 2017, 10: 1510–1522.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1510-1522
Number of pages13
JournalAutism Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • ASD
  • autism
  • color perception
  • perception
  • perceptual specialization
  • predictive coding
  • separable and integral perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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