Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 39–53

Unimpaired Perception of Social and Physical Causality, but Impaired Perception of Animacy in High Functioning Children with Autism

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10803-009-0824-2

Cite this article as:
Congiu, S., Schlottmann, A. & Ray, E. J Autism Dev Disord (2010) 40: 39. doi:10.1007/s10803-009-0824-2


We investigated perception of social and physical causality and animacy in simple motion events, for high-functioning children with autism (CA = 13, VMA = 9.6). Children matched 14 different animations to pictures showing physical, social or non-causality. In contrast to previous work, children with autism performed at a high level similar to VMA-matched controls, recognizing physical causality in launch and social causality in reaction events. The launch deficit previously found in younger children with autism, possibly related to attentional/verbal difficulties, is apparently overcome with age. Some events involved squares moving non-rigidly, like animals. Children with autism had difficulties recognizing this, extending the biological motion literature. However, animacy prompts amplified their attributions of social causality. Thus children with autism may overcome their animacy perception deficit strategically.


High-functioning autism Perceptual causality Perceptual animacy 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Filosofia e Scienze SocialiUniversity of SienaSienaItaly
  2. 2.Division of Psychology and Language SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze della Cognizione e della FormazioneUniversity of TrentoRoveretoItaly

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