Objective: The current article discusses recent literature on perceptual processing in autism and aims to provide a critical review of existing theories of autistic perception and suggestions for future work. Method: We review findings detailing exteroceptive and interoceptive processing in autism and discuss their neurobiological basis as well as potential links and analogies between sensory domains. Results: Many atypicalities of autistic perception described in the literature can be explained either by weak neural synchronization or by atypical perceptual inference. Evidence for both mechanisms is found across the different sensory domains considered in this review. Conclusions: We argue that weak neural synchronization and atypical perceptual inference might be complementary neural mechanisms that describe the complex bottom-up and top-down differences of autistic perception, respectively. Future work should be sensitive to individual differences to determine if divergent patterns of sensory processing are observed within individuals, rather than looking for global changes at a group level. Determining whether divergent patterns of exteroceptive and interoceptive sensory processing may contribute to prototypical social and cognitive characteristics of autism may drive new directions in our conceptualization of autism.
Bibliographical note© American Psychological Association, 2021. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. The final article is available, upon publication, at: 10.1037/pne0000262
- sensory processing