Abstract analogical reasoning in high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorders.

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TitleAbstract analogical reasoning in high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorders.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsGreen, AE, Kenworthy, L, Mosner, MG, Gallagher, NM, Fearon, EW, Balhana, CD, Yerys, BE
JournalAutism Res
Date Published2014 Dec
KeywordsAdolescent, Child, Child Development Disorders, Pervasive, Cognition, Female, Humans, Male, Semantics

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exhibit a deficit in spontaneously recognizing abstract similarities that are crucial for generalizing learning to new situations. This may contribute to deficits in the development of appropriate schemas for navigating novel situations, including social interactions. Analogical reasoning is the central cognitive mechanism that enables typically developing children to understand abstract similarities between different situations. Intriguingly, studies of high-functioning children with ASD point to a relative cognitive strength in basic, nonabstract forms of analogical reasoning. If this analogical reasoning ability extends to abstract analogical reasoning (i.e., between superficially dissimilar situations), it may provide a bridge between a cognitive capability and core ASD deficits in areas such as generalization and categorization. This study tested whether preserved analogical reasoning abilities in ASD can be extended to abstract analogical reasoning, using photographs of real-world items and situations. Abstractness of the analogies was determined via a quantitative measure of semantic distance derived from latent semantic analysis. Children with ASD performed as well as typically developing children at identifying abstract analogical similarities when explicitly instructed to apply analogical reasoning. Individual differences in abstract analogical reasoning ability predicted individual differences in a measure of social function in the ASD group. Preliminary analyses indicated that children with ASD, but not typically developing children, showed an effect of age on abstract analogical reasoning. These results provide new evidence that children with ASD are capable of identifying abstract similarities through analogical reasoning, pointing to abstract analogical reasoning as a potential lever for improving generalization skills and social function in ASD.

Alternate JournalAutism Res
PubMed ID25255899
PubMed Central IDPMC6100749
Grant List1RC1MH088791 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
K23 MH086111 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
R21 MH092615 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
5K23MH086111 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
RC1 MH088791 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
1R21MH092615 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States