Creativity in savant artists with autism

Pring, Linda; Ryder, Nicola; Crane, Laura and Hermelin, Beate. 2012. Creativity in savant artists with autism. Autism, 16(1), pp. 45-57. [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Background: Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often display impairments in creativity, yet savant artists with ASD can produce highly novel and original artistic outputs. To date, there have been no systematic attempts to explore creativity in savant artists with ASD.

Methods: Nine savant artists with ASD were compared with nine talented artists, nine non-artistically talented individuals with ASD, and nine individuals with moderate learning difficulties (MLD), on tasks in and out of their domain of expertise. This was to ascertain whether the performance of the savant artists was related to their artistic ability, their diagnosis of ASD or their level of intellectual functioning.

Results: On a drawing task (the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking; Torrance, 1974), the responses of the art students were more creative (scoring higher on measures of fluency, originality, elaboration and flexibility) than the savant, ASD and MLD groups. However, the savants did produce more elaborative responses than the ASD and MLD groups. On a non-drawing construction task (figural synthesis; Finke & Slayton, 1988), the savants produced more original outputs than the ASD and MLD groups (scoring similarly to the art students). No group differences were found regarding fluency on this task.

Conclusions: On standardised creativity tasks, savant artists with ASD display high levels of elaboration (on drawing tasks) and originality (on non-drawing construction tasks), relative to groups with ASD or MLD. High elaboration and originality may result from a local processing bias, coupled with artistic talent, in this group.

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January 2012Published

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Date Deposited:

21 Mar 2012 14:20

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:48

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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