Autism and the Imaginative Mind


in Imaginative Minds

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264195
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734540 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Autism and the Imaginative Mind

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Autism is diagnosed through a symptom of clusters known as the diagnostic triad. One of these is the rigid adherence to routines, repetitive activities, and narrowly focused interests which represent behavioural and cognitive biases due to a lack of imaginative cognition. The other two clusters include impairment in communication and social interaction because of impairments of imagination. These symptoms gave rise to the assumption that autism impairs imagination. Symptoms consistent with this view are prominent throughout the clinical and research profile of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However, some individuals diagnosed with autism exhibit excellent gifts in the field of creative imagination such as in arts, music, and poetry. Some of these personages who suffered from autism include Samuel Beckett, Albert Einstein, Andy Warhol, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. This claim purports that autism is not only compatible with creative imagination but in some sense promotes it. This chapter discusses the evidence for the impairment of the imagination in ASD and shows how these problems align with the key psychological models of autism. It evaluates the evidence for elements of preserved imagination by considering autistic visual arts and autistic spectrum poetry. It also highlights the implications of the relationship of autism and imagination.

Keywords: autism; behavioural biases; cognitive biases; imaginative cognition; communication; social interaction; Autism Spectrum Disorders; creative imagination; models of autism

Chapter.  10235 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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