The use of prior knowledge for perceptual inference is preserved in ASD

Oct 11, 2017

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An amorphous collection of black and white patches (so-called “Mooney images”) can be perceived dramatically differently before versus after exposure to the natural source image. Prior experience causes the patches to (re)organize and fit together in a meaningful whole. Given recent hypotheses on a weaker role of priors in perception in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), we looked at improvements in recognition accuracy for Mooney images, before and after exposure to their source image, in Typically Developing (TD) individuals varying in ASD-like traits, and in a clinical group of adolescents with ASD (versus matched TD sample). We found typical prior-based performance improvements irrespective of ASD-like traits or ASD diagnosis, suggesting that the fast formation and application of specific priors is preserved in ASD. Together with earlier studies reporting intact use of other types of perceptual priors, these findings narrow down the candidate Bayesian accounts that are plausible for ASD.