Contextual priors do not modulate action prediction in children with autism

Lucia Amoruso, Antonio Narzisi, Martina Pinzino, Alessandra Finisguerra, Lucia Billeci, Sara Calderoni, Franco Fabbro, Filippo Muratori, Anna Volzone, Cosimo Urgesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Bayesian accounts of autism suggest that this disorder may be rooted in an impaired ability to estimate the probability of future events, possibly owing to reduced priors. Here, we tested this hypothesis within the action domain in children with and without autism using a behavioural paradigm comprising a familiarization and a testing phase. During familiarization, children observed videos depicting a child model performing actions in diverse contexts. Crucially, within this phase, we implicitly biased action-context associations in terms of their probability of co-occurrence. During testing, children observed the same videos but drastically shortened (i.e. reduced amount of kinematics information) and were asked to infer action unfolding. Since during the testing phase movement kinematics became ambiguous, we expected children's responses to be biased to contextual priors, thus compensating for perceptual uncertainty. While this probabilistic effect was present in controls, no such modulation was observed in autistic children, overall suggesting an impairment in using contextual priors when predicting other peoples' actions in uncertain environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20191319
JournalProceedings. Biological sciences
Issue number1908
Publication statusPublished - Aug 14 2019



  • action prediction
  • autism
  • Bayes
  • context
  • priors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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