Autism is characterized by diverse behavioral traits. Guided by theoretical considerations and empirical data, this paper develops the hypothesis that many of autism’s salient traits may be manifestations of an underlying impairment in predictive abilities. This impairment renders an otherwise orderly world to be experienced as a capriciously “magical” one.

The hypothesis elucidates the information-processing roots of autism and, thereby, can aid the identification of neural structures likely to be differentially affected. Behavioral and neural measures of prediction might serve as early assays of predictive abilities in infants, and serve as useful tools in intervention design and in monitoring their effectiveness. The hypothesis also points to avenues for further research to determine molecular and circuit-level causal underpinnings of predictive impairments.

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