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Modelling Me, Modelling You: the Autistic Self

Abstract

The stereotype of autism spectrum conditions (ASC or ‘autism’) focuses on the social and communicative elements of the diagnostic criteria. In this review, we step back from autism as a social and communicative disorder and focus on the autistic self. The autistic self is a key component of the condition which has nevertheless received comparatively little attention. We provide a taxonomy for experimental paradigms in the cognitive sciences that aim to address questions related to the self. We articulate reasons based on domain-general cognitive mechanisms, autobiography and historical conceptions for why the self might differ in ASC. We conclude with elucidating the implications of a predictive processing account of autism on conceptualising the autistic self and how this fits with existing literature, with a focus on context sensitivity, model complexity, learning, integration, active inference and precision. This opens up large scope for future research on unique differences in the autistic self, which could be extended as a framework for understanding the condition as a whole in a new and unified way.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Uta Frith and Peter Enticott for their detailed comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Funding

This research was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship and Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP160102770.

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Correspondence to Kelsey Perrykkad.

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Figures and narrative interpretations contained in this paper were presented as posters at the Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Association 2017 Conference and the Science of Self: Agency and Body Representation 2017 Conference.

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Fig. 4
figure 4

Evidence from self-cognition paradigms in autism based on Table 3. Totals for each parent category are as follows: Action = 10, Memory = 42, Self-prioritisation = 13, Self-recognition = 13, Body = 22, Internal States = 3, Language = 10, Self-Knowledge = 13. Some studies fall into multiple categories; excluding duplicates, total unique papers included = 135" (PNG 173 kb)

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Perrykkad, K., Hohwy, J. Modelling Me, Modelling You: the Autistic Self. Rev J Autism Dev Disord 7, 1–31 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40489-019-00173-y

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum conditions
  • Autistic self
  • Predictive processing
  • Self-model
  • Self-cognition