Perceptual inference is impaired in individuals with ASD and intact in individuals who have lost the autism diagnosis

Sagi Jaffe-Dax*, Inge Marie Eigsti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beyond the symptoms which characterize their diagnoses, individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show enhanced performance in simple perceptual discrimination tasks. Often attributed to superior sensory sensitivities, enhanced performance may also reflect a weaker bias towards previously perceived stimuli. This study probes perceptual inference in a group of individuals who have lost the autism diagnosis (LAD); that is, they were diagnosed with ASD in early childhood but have no current ASD symptoms. Groups of LAD, current ASD, and typically developing (TD) participants completed an auditory discrimination task. Individuals with TD showed a bias towards previously perceived stimuli—a perceptual process called “contraction bias”; that is, their representation of a given tone was contracted towards the preceding trial stimulus in a manner that is Bayesian optimal. Similarly, individuals in the LAD group showed a contraction bias. In contrast, individuals with current ASD showed a weaker contraction bias, suggesting reduced perceptual inferencing. These findings suggest that changes that characterize LAD extend beyond the social and communicative symptoms of ASD, impacting perceptual domains. Measuring perceptual processing earlier in development in ASD will tap the causality between changes in perceptual and symptomatological domains. Further, the characterization of perceptual inference could reveal meaningful individual differences in complex high-level behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17085
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


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