High-precision visual long-term memory in children with high-functioning autism

Yuhong V Jiang, Bryce E. Palm, Michaela C. DeBolt, Yi Shuen Goh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Domain-general theories of autism rest on evidence that the disorder impacts not only social communication skills but also nonsocial functions such as memory. Yet recognition memory deficits have been inconsistently documented, especially for stimuli other than faces and sentences. Here we tested school-age children with high-functioning autism (ASD) and IQ, and age-matched comparison children on a visual long-term memory task involving more than 100 photographs of objects, faces, cats, houses, and abstract stimuli. Children viewed each photograph for 2 s. After a 10-min filled delay, we assessed recognition memory for object category as well as for specific exemplars. Data supported the presence of a high-capacity and high-precision visual memory in children with ASD. Both category memory and exemplar memory accuracies were above 90% for categories for which a single exemplar had been encoded. When more exemplars per category were encoded, category memory improved, but exemplar memory declined. An exception was face memory, which remained highly accurate even after many faces had been encoded. Our study provided no evidence that visual memory in general, and face memory in particular, is impaired in children with ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-456
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 American Psychological Association.


  • Autism
  • Face memory
  • Visual long-term memory


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