In this paper, I outline a new candidate hypothesis concerning autism: Semantic Feature Dissociation (SFD). This is the claim that, in some cases of autism, connections between feature representations in semantic memory may be weaker. More specifically, connections representing low-strength correlations may be disproportionately lost. I demonstrate the wide-ranging effects this change would have by introducing two analytical categories, concept narrowing (CN) (a tendency to make fewer inferences from the same concepts) and concept specialization (CS) (a tendency to be sensitive to fewer cues in categorization). Presenting the results of a novel qualitative study of autism autobiographies, I show that SFD can plausibly explain many common autism traits, as described by autistic autobiographers. I conclude by considering how far this account might generalize, and how it might be related to existing theories of autism.
- semantic memory
- SPECTRUM DISORDER