Precise worlds for certain minds: An ecological perspective on the relational self in autism

Jan 15, 2018

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Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) presents a challenge to social and relational accounts of the self, precisely because it is broadly seen as a disorder impacting social relationships. Many influential theories argue that social deficits and impairments of the self are the core problems in ASC. Predictive processing approaches address these based on general purpose neurocognitive mechanisms that are expressed atypically. Here we use the High, Inflexible Precision of Prediction Errors in Autism (HIPPEA) approach in the context of cultural niche construction to explain atypicalities of the relational self, specifically its minimal, extended, and intersubjective aspects. We contend that the social self in ASC should not be seen as impaired, but rather as an outcome of atypical niche construction. We unpack the scientific, ethical, and practical consequences of this view, and discuss implications for how the challenges that autistic persons face should be approached.