Perceptual similarity in autism

Lewis Bott*, Jon Brock, Noellie Brockdorff, Jill Boucher, Koen Lamberts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


People with autism have consistently been found to outperform controls on visuo-spatial tasks such as block design, embedded figures, and visual search tasks. Plaisted, O'Riordan, and others (Bonnel et al., 2003; O'Riordan & Plaisted, 2001; O'Riordan, Plaisted, Driver, & Baron-Cohen, 2001; Plaisted, O'Riordan, & Baron-Cohen, 1998a, 1998b) have suggested that these findings might be explained in terms of reduced perceptual similarity in autism, and that reduced perceptual similarity could also account for the difficulties that people with autism have in making generalizations to novel situations. In this study, high-functioning adults with autism and ability-matched controls performed a low-level categorization task designed to examine perceptual similarity. Results were analysed using standard statistical techniques and modelled using a quantitative model of categorization. This analysis revealed that participants with autism required reliably longer to learn the category structure than did the control group but, contrary to the predictions of the reduced perceptual similarity hypothesis, no evidence was found of more accurate performance by the participants with autism during the generalization stage. Our results suggest that when all participants are attending to the same attributes of an object in the visual domain, people with autism will not display signs of enhanced perceptual similarity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1237-1254
Number of pages18
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


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