Shape categorization in Autism: Does it follow the pattern of typical development?


When identifying basic-level categories (e.g., airplane, cow), typically developing (TD) children commonly use the overall shape of objects as basis for their judgments. This so-called shape bias is tied to the size of a child’s vocabulary and as such might be a way of adaptively organizing an ever-growing vocabulary. The current study looks at whether the same is true for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A group of participants with ASD and TD controls were asked to categorize objects that differed in the amount of item detail. Results show that vocabulary size was related to success in categorizing objects for TD participants, but not for ASD participants. We discuss the degree to which a link between shape bias and vocabulary size in ASD children may be an indication of differentiated patterns of adaptation.

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