Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 41, Issue 9, pp 1157-1177

First online:

Thinking in Pictures as a Cognitive Account of Autism

  • Maithilee KundaAffiliated withDesign & Intelligence Laboratory, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology Email author 
  • , Ashok K. GoelAffiliated withDesign & Intelligence Laboratory, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology

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Abstract

We analyze the hypothesis that some individuals on the autism spectrum may use visual mental representations and processes to perform certain tasks that typically developing individuals perform verbally. We present a framework for interpreting empirical evidence related to this “Thinking in Pictures” hypothesis and then provide comprehensive reviews of data from several different cognitive tasks, including the n-back task, serial recall, dual task studies, Raven’s Progressive Matrices, semantic processing, false belief tasks, visual search, spatial recall, and visual recall. We also discuss the relationships between the Thinking in Pictures hypothesis and other cognitive theories of autism including Mindblindness, Executive Dysfunction, Weak Central Coherence, and Enhanced Perceptual Functioning.

Keywords

Autism Cognition Information processing Mental imagery Verbal representations Visual representations Visual reasoning