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Dev Psychopathol. 2012 Feb;24(1):225-39. doi: 10.1017/S0954579411000794.

Inner speech is used to mediate short-term memory, but not planning, among intellectually high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder.

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Department of Psychology, Durham University, Science Laboratories, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.


Evidence regarding the use of inner speech by individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is equivocal. To clarify this issue, the current study employed multiple techniques and tasks used across several previous studies. In Experiment 1, participants with and without ASD showed highly similar patterns and levels of serial recall for visually presented stimuli. Both groups were significantly affected by the phonological similarity of items to be recalled, indicating that visual material was spontaneously recoded into a verbal form. Confirming that short-term memory is typically verbally mediated among the majority of people with ASD, recall performance among both groups declined substantially when inner speech use was prevented by the imposition of articulatory suppression during the presentation of stimuli. In Experiment 2, planning performance on a tower of London task was substantially detrimentally affected by articulatory suppression among comparison participants, but not among participants with ASD. This suggests that planning is not verbally mediated in ASD. It is important that the extent to which articulatory suppression affected planning among participants with ASD was uniquely associated with the degree of their observed and self-reported communication impairments. This confirms a link between interpersonal communication with others and intrapersonal communication with self as a means of higher order problem solving.

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