An analysis of source memory in children with pervasive developmental disorders

Date of Completion

January 2003


Psychology, Clinical




A range of neuropsychological theories has been put forth to help explain the underlying psychological mechanisms of those pervasive developmental disorders that are considered to fall within the autism spectrum. One particular cognitive mechanism that remains relatively understudied in children with these complex neurodevelopmental disorders involves the role of memory. Although children with autism spectrum disorders have been shown to display exceptional memories for fact-based information, they have been found to be less able to attach meaning or context to their memories. Thus, the specific role of source memory in autism was investigated in the present study. Children with autism spectrum disorders were compared to a chronological and mental age matched comparison group of typically developing children. Although children with autism performed similarly to controls on a fact recognition measure, their performance on a source memory task was significantly lower. The findings indicate, however, that the nature of source memory confusion in children with autism does not appear to reflect a generalized deficit in attaching context to memories, but rather is dependent upon the specific to-be-remembered information, which, in the present study, involves social aspects of context. ^