, Volume 37, Issue 7, p 1396
Date: 25 Oct 2006

Questionable Aspects of Oliver Sacks’ (1985) Report

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Dear Editor:

Oliver Sacks published an extremely influential book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, in 1985. One of the most intriguing stories in it is concerned with savant syndrome, which refers to the exceptionally high abilities shown by otherwise handicapped individuals (e.g., autism). His story is cited in many journal articles as well as popular science books.

To reiterate, he discovered that autistic twins spontaneously generated 6-digit prime numbers like a game. Then he joined them, with a book of number table of up to 10-digit primes. He challenged them with an 8-digit prime found in the book. The twins seemed to recognize it and responded with 9-digit primes. He again challenged them with a 10-digit prime in the book. They responded with a 12-digit number, and went even further, to the point of exchanging 20-digit numbers. He, with his book of 10-digit primes, could not confirm primality of those huge numbers.

This finding is important for not only psychologists but al

An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10803-007-0411-3