Pring_Ryder_Crane_Hermelin_Autism_r1.doc

Pring_Ryder_Crane_Hermelin_Autism_r1.doc - Creativity in...

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Creativity in savant artists Abstract Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often display impairments in creativity, yet savant artists with ASD are reported to produce highly novel and original artistic outputs. To explore this paradox, we assessed nine savant artists with ASD, nine talented art students, nine non-artistically talented individuals with ASD, and nine individuals with mild/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 demonstrated that the responses of the art students were more creative (as assessed on measures of fluency, originality, elaboration and flexibility) than the savant, ASD and MLD groups on a drawing task. Although the savants did produce more elaborative responses than the ASD and MLD groups, no differences were observed on the other indices of creativity. On a non-drawing task, the savants produced more original outputs than the ASD and MLD groups (scoring similarly to the art students), but group differences were not observed on the other measures. Keywords autism, savants, creativity, domain-specificity, talent 1 1
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Creativity in savant artists Creativity in savant artists with autism The term ‘savant’ was originally used to describe individuals who had low levels of intelligence, accompanied by an outstanding ability in a specific area (Down, 1887); a definition that was later extended to include individuals with average or above average intelligence (Miller, 1999). The majority of savants are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Pring, 2005), with savant abilities being found in around 10-30% of this group (Rimland, 1978; Howlin et al., 2009; Bölte and Poustka, 2004). Savant talents have been documented in a wide range of domains, including music (Sloboda et al., 1985), calendar calculation (Cowan and Frith, 2009), arithmetic (Heavey, 2004), poetry (Dowker et al., 1996), memory (Treffert, 2009) and, the focus of this paper, art (Hermelin and O'Connor, 1970). Whilst artistic ability is not the most prolific of savant skills (Hill, 1978), it is perhaps the most commonly documented. One of the most well-known descriptions of this ability was provided by Selfe (1977; , 1983) in her reports of child artist Nadia. Diagnosed with autism when she was six years old, Nadia possessed no language skills and poor comprehension. However, at the age of three and a half, she developed an amazing capacity to draw. These drawings were sophisticated, largely focusing on animals, but also including depictions of people, trains and other objects. Impressively, she was able to generate these images from memory and never made mistakes or used an eraser (as also noted in the savant draughtsman EC, Mottron and Belleville, 1995). She also displayed the use of complex graphic strategies (e.g., linear perspective, 2 2
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Creativity in savant artists foreshortening, occlusion, proportioning), which are not usually apparent in artistic output until much later life, all without formal artistic training.
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  • Spring '17
  • william james
  • savant artists

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Christopher Reinemann
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