International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): Implicit Learning and ASD

Implicit Learning and ASD

Thursday, May 15, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
J. Brown , Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
K. C. Plaisted , Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Background: ASD is a disorder characterized by social and communicative impairments. It has been proposed that these may arise from an impaired ability to learn implicitly about complex social information (Mostofsky et al., 2000; Klinger et al., 2007). However, the evidence concerning the performance of individuals with ASD on implicit learning tasks is equivocal. Where deficits have been evidenced, it has been unclear whether they stemmed from a general impairment in the ability to learn implicitly. The possibility has existed that the poor performances have arisen from other deficits (such as motor dexterity), which are actually not directly related to implicit learning ability.

Objectives: The purpose of this research is to determine the extent to which implicit learning processes are preserved or impaired in individuals with ASD, and how they contrast with explicit processes.

Methods: The performance of children with ASD (n = 27) on a range of implicit and explicit learning tasks was compared to that of typically developing children matched for chronological age and IQ. The tasks were Serial Reaction Time, Contextual Cueing, Artificial Grammar Learning, Invariant Feature Learning, Probabilistic Classification Learning and Paired Associates Learning.

Results: At the time of writing, the data-collection and analysis were not quite complete. However, tentative analyses indicate that learning performance on implicit learning tasks is preserved, in contrast to impaired performance on measures of explicit learning.

Conclusions: Therefore, the tentative conclusion would be that implicit learning is preserved in individuals with ASD, and does not account for the social and communicative impairments associated with ASD.

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