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01-04-2009 | Original Paper | Uitgave 4/2009 Open Access

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 4/2009

Free Recall Learning of Hierarchically Organised Lists by Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome: Additional Evidence for Diminished Relational Processing

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders > Uitgave 4/2009
Dermot M. Bowler, Sebastian B. Gaigg, John M. Gardiner
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An earlier report of the work was presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, Boston, May 2005.


The Task Support Hypothesis (TSH, Bowler et al. Neuropsychologia 35:65–70 1997) states that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show better memory when test procedures provide support for retrieval. The present study aimed to see whether this principle also applied at encoding. Twenty participants with high-functioning ASD and 20 matched comparison participants studied arrays of 112 words over four trials. Words were arranged either under hierarchically embedded category headings (e.g. Instruments—String—Plucked—Violin) or randomly. Both groups showed similar overall recall and better recall for the hierarchically organised words. However, the ASD participants made less use of information about relations between words and more use of item-specific information in their recall, confirming earlier reports of relational difficulties in this population.

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