What Can Pictorial Representations Reveal about the Cognitive Characteristics of Autism?
In this paper, we develop a cognitive account of autism centered around a reliance on pictorial representations. This Thinking in Pictures hypothesis shows significant potential for explaining many autistic behaviors. We support this hypothesis with empirical evidence from several independent behavioral and neuroimaging studies of individuals with autism, each of which shows strong bias towards visual representations and activity. We also examine three other cognitive theories of autism—Mindblindness, Weak Central Coherence, and Executive Dysfunction—and show how Thinking in Pictures provides a deeper explanation for several results typically cited in support of these theories.
KeywordsAutism cognition mental imagery visual reasoning visual representation
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 1.American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC (2000)Google Scholar
- 3.Baron-Cohen, S.: Mindblindness. MIT Press, Cambridge (1995)Google Scholar
- 5.Russell, J.: Autism as an executive disorder. Oxford University Press, NY (1998)Google Scholar
- 6.Grandin, T.: Thinking in pictures, expanded edition. Vintage Press, New York (2006)Google Scholar
- 7.Paivio, A.: Dual coding theory—Retrospect and current status. Canadian Journal of Psychology 45, 255–287 (1991)Google Scholar
- 11.Stone, W., Lemanek, K., Fishel, P., Fernandez, M., Altemeier, W.: Play & imitation skills in the diagnosis of autism in young children. Pediatrics 86, 267–272 (1990)Google Scholar
- 13.Cowan, N., Baddeley, A.D., Elliott, E.M., Norris, J.: List composition and the word length effect in immediate recall: a comparison of localist and globalist assumptions. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 10, 74–79 (2003)Google Scholar
- 14.Hitch, G.J., Halliday, M.S., Dodd, A., Littler, J.E.: Development of rehearsal in short-term memory—Differences between pictorial and spoken stimuli. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 7, 347–362 (1989)Google Scholar
- 29.Kosslyn, S.M.: Image and brain. MIT Press, Cambridge (1994)Google Scholar
- 31.Barsalou, L.: Perceptual symbol systems. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22, 577–660 (1999)Google Scholar