Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 481–490 | Cite as

Atypical Categorical Perception in Autism: Autonomy of Discrimination?

  • Isabelle SoulièresEmail author
  • Laurent Mottron
  • Daniel Saumier
  • Serge Larochelle
Original Paper


A diminished top-down influence has been proposed in autism, to account for enhanced performance in low-level perceptual tasks. Applied to perceptual categorization, this hypothesis predicts a diminished influence of category on discrimination. In order to test this hypothesis, we compared categorical perception in 16 individuals with and 16 individuals without high-functioning autism. While participants with and without autism displayed a typical classification curve, there was no facilitation of discrimination near the category boundary in the autism group. The absence of influence of categorical knowledge on discrimination suggests an increased autonomy of low-level perceptual processes in autism, in the form of a reduced top-down influence from categories toward discrimination.


Categorization Discrimination Categorical perception Top-down processing Autism 



This project was funded by a scholarship from NSERC and FCAR (I.S.), a Chercheur Boursier from FRSQ and a grant from CIHR (L.M.). We thank Lisa-Marie Sauvé and Geneviève Martel for assistance, Claude Berthiaume for help with statistical analyses, Michelle Dawson for helpful comments, and Martin Arguin for providing the stimuli. We also thank the participants and their families. This study was presented as part of Ph.D. dissertation of the first author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabelle Soulières
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laurent Mottron
    • 2
  • Daniel Saumier
    • 3
  • Serge Larochelle
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversité de Montréal & Clinique spécialisée des troubles envahissants du développement, Hôpital Rivière-des-PrairiesMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversité de Montréal & Clinique spécialisée des troubles envahissants du développement, Hôpital Rivière-des-PrairiesMontréalCanada
  3. 3.Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, and Lady Davis Institute for Medical ResearchMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada

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