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Episodic memory and episodic future thinking in adults with autism

Lind, S. E. & Bowler, D. M. (2010). Episodic memory and episodic future thinking in adults with autism. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 119(4), pp. 896-905. doi: 10.1037/a0020631


The ability to remember past experiences (episodic memory) is thought to be related to the ability to imagine possible future experiences (episodic future thinking). Although previous research has established that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have diminished episodic memory, episodic future thinking has not previously been investigated within this population. In the present study, high-functioning adults with ASD were compared to closely matched typical adults on a task requiring participants to report a series of events that happened to them in the past and a series of events that might happen to them in the future. For each event described, participants completed two modified “Memory Characteristics Questionnaire” (MCQ) items to assess self-reported phenomenal qualities associated with remembering and imagining, including self-perspective and degree of autonoetic awareness. Participants also completed letter, category, and ideational fluency tasks. Results indicated that participants with ASD recalled/imagined significantly fewer specific events than comparison participants, demonstrating impaired episodic memory and episodic future thinking. In line with this finding, participants with ASD were less likely than comparison participants to report taking a “field” (first-person) perspective, and more likely to report taking an “observer” (third-person) perspective, during retrieval of past events (but not during simulation of future events), highlighting that they were less likely to mentally re-experience past events from their own point of view. There were no group differences in self-reported levels of autonoetic awareness or fluency task performance.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Publisher Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, autonoetic consciousness, episodic future thinking, episodic memory, imagination, prospection
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
SWORD Depositor:
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