Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 9, pp 2912–2924 | Cite as

Do Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Benefit from Structural Alignment When Constructing Categories?

  • Simon SnapeEmail author
  • Andrea Krott
  • Joseph P. McCleery
Original Paper


Individuals with ASD seem to construct categories via processes different to typically developing individuals. We examined whether individuals with ASD engage in structural alignment of exemplars when constructing categories. We taught children with ASD and typically developing children novel nouns for either single or multiple exemplars, and then examined their extensions of the learned nouns to objects that were either a perceptual or conceptual match to the original exemplar(s). Results indicated that, unlike typically developing participants, those with ASD gained no benefit from seeing multiple exemplars of the category and, thus, did not appear to engage in structural alignment in their formation of categories. However, they demonstrated superior performance compared to typically developing children when presented with a single exemplar.


Autism ASD Category learning Structural alignment Language learning 



This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Author Contributions

SS conceived of the study, collected the data, designed the study, coordinated and drafted the manuscript; AK contributed to the design of the study, interpretation of data, and drafting the manuscript; JPM contributed to the design of the study, interpretation of the data, and drafting the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or National Research Committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Snape
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea Krott
    • 1
  • Joseph P. McCleery
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Psychology, College of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Kinney CenterSaint Joseph’s UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Center for Autism ResearchChildren’s Hospital of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaUSA

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