Prediction in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review of Empirical Evidence
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According to a recent influential proposal, several phenotypic features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be accounted for by differences in predictive skills between individuals with ASD and neurotypical individuals. In this systematic review, we describe results from 47 studies that have empirically tested this hypothesis. We assess the results based on two observable aspects of prediction: learning a pairing between an antecedent and a consequence and responding to an antecedent in a predictive manner. Taken together, these studies suggest distinct differences in both predictive learning and predictive response. Studies documenting differences in learning predictive pairings indicate challenges in detecting such relationships especially when predictive features of an antecedent have low salience or consistency, and studies showing differences in habituation and perceptual adaptation suggest low-level predictive processing differences in ASD. These challenges may account for the observed differences in the influence of predictive priors, in spontaneous predictive movement or gaze, and in social prediction. An important goal for future research will be to better define and constrain the broad domain-general hypothesis by testing multiple types of prediction within the same individuals. Additional promising avenues include studying prediction within naturalistic contexts and assessing the effect of prediction-based intervention on supporting functional outcomes for individuals with ASD. LAY SUMMARY: Researchers have suggested that many features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be explained by differences in the prediction skills of people with ASD. We review results from 47 studies. These studies suggest that ASD may be associated with differences in the learning of predictive pairings (e.g., learning cause and effect) and in low-level predictive processing in the brain (e.g., processing repeated sounds). These findings lay the groundwork for research that can improve our understanding of ASD and inform interventions. Autism Res 2021, 14: 604-630. © 2021 International Society for Autism Research and Wiley Periodicals LLC.
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