Abstract: Abstract Spatial Reasoning as an Autistic Strength

STEVENSON, J. L., GERNSBACHER, M. A. (2013). Abstract spatial reasoning as an autistic strength. PLoS ONE, 8(3), e59329. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059329
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Autistic individuals typically excel on spatial tests that measure abstract reasoning, such as the Block Design subtest on intelligence test batteries and the Raven’s Progressive Matrices nonverbal test of intelligence. Such well-replicated findings suggest that abstract spatial processing is a relative and perhaps absolute strength of autistic individuals. However, previous studies have not systematically varied reasoning level – concrete vs. abstract – and test domain – spatial vs. numerical vs. verbal, which the current study did. Autistic participants (N = 72) and non-autistic participants (N = 72) completed a battery of 12 tests that varied by reasoning level (concrete vs. abstract) and domain (spatial vs. numerical vs. verbal). Autistic participants outperformed non-autistic participants on abstract spatial tests. Non-autistic participants did not outperform autistic participants on any of the three domains (spatial, numerical, and verbal) or at either of the two reasoning levels (concrete and abstract), suggesting similarity in abilities between autistic and non-autistic individuals, with abstract spatial reasoning as an autistic strength.