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Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2010 Sep;63(9):1789-812. doi: 10.1080/17470210903536910. Epub 2010 Mar 3.

Intact implicit learning in autism spectrum conditions.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


Individuals with autism spectrum condition (ASC) have diagnostic impairments in skills that are associated with an implicit acquisition; however, it is not clear whether ASC individuals show specific implicit learning deficits. We compared ASC and typically developing (TD) individuals matched for IQ on five learning tasks: four implicit learning tasks--contextual cueing, serial reaction time, artificial grammar learning, and probabilistic classification learning tasks--that used procedures expressly designed to minimize the use of explicit strategies, and one comparison explicit learning task, paired associates learning. We found implicit learning to be intact in ASC. Beyond no evidence of differences, there was evidence of statistical equivalence between the groups on all the implicit learning tasks. This was not a consequence of compensation by explicit learning ability or IQ. Furthermore, there was no evidence to relate implicit learning to ASC symptomatology. We conclude that implicit mechanisms are preserved in ASC and propose that it is disruption by other atypical processes that impact negatively on the development of skills associated with an implicit acquisition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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