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Trends Cogn Sci. 2012 Oct;16(10):504-10. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2012.08.009. Epub 2012 Sep 7.

When the world becomes 'too real': a Bayesian explanation of autistic perception.

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Centre for Research in Autism and Education, Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK.


Perceptual experience is influenced both by incoming sensory information and prior knowledge about the world, a concept recently formalised within Bayesian decision theory. We propose that Bayesian models can be applied to autism - a neurodevelopmental condition with atypicalities in sensation and perception - to pinpoint fundamental differences in perceptual mechanisms. We suggest specifically that attenuated Bayesian priors - 'hypo-priors' - may be responsible for the unique perceptual experience of autistic people, leading to a tendency to perceive the world more accurately rather than modulated by prior experience. In this account, we consider how hypo-priors might explain key features of autism - the broad range of sensory and other non-social atypicalities--in addition to the phenomenological differences in autistic perception.

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