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Adults with Autism Tend to Undermine the Hidden Environmental Structure: Evidence from a Visual Associative Learning Task

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An Author Correction to this article was published on 10 May 2018

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The learning-style theory of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (Qian, Lipkin, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 5:77, 2011) states that ASD individuals differ from neurotypics in the way they learn and store information about the environment and its structure. ASD would rather adopt a lookup-table strategy (LUT: memorizing each experience), while neurotypics would favor an interpolation style (INT: extracting regularities to generalize). In a series of visual behavioral tasks, we tested this hypothesis in 20 neurotypical and 20 ASD adults. ASD participants had difficulties using the INT style when instructions were hidden but not when instructions were revealed. Rather than an inability to use rules, ASD would be characterized by a disinclination to generalize and infer such rules.

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  • 10 May 2018

    The original version of this article unfortunately contained a mistake in the article title


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We would like to thank all of the participants for their precious time, participation, feedbacks on the tasks, and enriching conversations. We also thank Nathalie Touil and Lucie Hannequin for taking care of the WAIS assessments of most of the participants, and for the interesting discussions about WAIS interpretation.


This study was supported by a Scientific Research Council grant from the Vinatier Hospital Center, and was performed within the framework of the LABEX CORTEX (ANR-11-LABX-0042) of Université de Lyon, within the program “Investissements d’Avenir” (ANR-11-IDEX-0007) operated by the French National Research Agency (ANR).

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Paradigms were designed by LAST, MAH, JM and CS, participants were recruited by SS, data collection and analyses were performed by LAST, the article was written by LAST, JM and CS. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Christina Schmitz.

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All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest to disclose.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the standards of the French ethical guidelines and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Approval was obtained from the local ethics committee (French South East IV Committee for the Protection of Persons).

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Participants gave their written consent beforehand.

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Sapey-Triomphe, LA., Sonié, S., Hénaff, MA. et al. Adults with Autism Tend to Undermine the Hidden Environmental Structure: Evidence from a Visual Associative Learning Task. J Autism Dev Disord 48, 3061–3074 (2018).

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