Impaired recollection of visual scene details in adults with autism spectrum conditions

Cooper, R.A., Plaisted-Grant, K.C., Hannula, D.E., Ranganath, C., Baron-Cohen, S., & Simons, J.S. (2015). Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 124, 565-575.

Subtle memory deficits observed in autism spectrum conditions (ASC) have often been characterized as reflecting impaired recollection and it has been proposed that a relational binding deficit may underlie the recollection impairment. However, subjective recollection and relational binding have not been measured within the same task in ASC to date and it is unclear whether a relational binding deficit can provide a full account of recollection impairments in ASC. Relational memory has also not been compared with item memory when the demands of the 2 tasks are comparable. To assess recollection, relational memory, and item memory within a single task in ASC, 24 adults with ASC and 24 typically developed adults undertook a change detection memory task that assessed recollection of item-specific and spatial details. Participants studied rendered indoor and outdoor scenes and, in a subsequent recognition memory test, distinguished scenes that had not changed from those that had either undergone an item change (a different item exemplar) or a relational (spatial) change, which was followed by a subjective recollection judgment. The ASC group identified fewer item changes and spatial changes, to a similar degree, which was attributable to a specific reduction in recollection-based recognition relative to the control group. These findings provide evidence that recollection deficits in ASC may not be driven entirely by a relational binding deficit.