Explaining and inducing savant skills: privileged access to lower level, less-processed information.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Snyder, Allan
Year of Publication: 2009
Journal: Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
Volume: 364
Issue: 1522
Pagination: 1399-405
Date Published: 2009 May 27
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1471-2970
Keywords: Aptitude, Cognition, Humans, Models, Psychological, Problem Solving, Temporal Lobe, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

I argue that savant skills are latent in us all. My hypothesis is that savants have privileged access to lower level, less-processed information, before it is packaged into holistic concepts and meaningful labels. Owing to a failure in top-down inhibition, they can tap into information that exists in all of our brains, but is normally beyond conscious awareness. This suggests why savant skills might arise spontaneously in otherwise normal people, and why such skills might be artificially induced by low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. It also suggests why autistic savants are atypically literal with a tendency to concentrate more on the parts than on the whole and why this offers advantages for particular classes of problem solving, such as those that necessitate breaking cognitive mindsets. A strategy of building from the parts to the whole could form the basis for the so-called autistic genius. Unlike the healthy mind, which has inbuilt expectations of the world (internal order), the autistic mind must simplify the world by adopting strict routines (external order).

DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0290
Alternate Journal: Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci.