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The Bayesian Savant

  • Karl Friston
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Karl Friston, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom.
    Affiliations
    Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, United Kingdom
    Search for articles by this author
      Computational psychiatry promises a fresh and formal approach to mental health, and autism has become its so-called poster child. Key concepts from computational neuroscience are now finding their way into discussions about the pathophysiology and psychopathology of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (
      • Pellicano E.
      • Burr D.
      When the world becomes too real: a Bayesian explanation of autistic perception.
      ,
      • Van de Cruys S.
      • Evers K.
      • Van der Hallen R.
      • Van Eylen L.
      • Boets B.
      • de-Wit L.
      • et al.
      Precise minds in uncertain worlds: predictive coding in autism.
      ,
      • Lawson R.P.
      • Rees G.
      • Friston K.
      An aberrant precision account of autism.
      ,
      • Palmer C.J.
      • Seth A.K.
      • Hohwy J.
      The felt presence of other minds: Predictive processing, counterfactual predictions, and mentalising in autism.
      ). This is exemplified beautifully by Sevgi et al. (
      • Sevgi M.
      • Diaconescu A.O.
      • Tittgemeyer M.
      • Schilbach L.
      Social Bayes: Using Bayesian modeling to study autistic trait–related differences in social cognition.
      ), who report that “higher autistic traits in healthy subjects are related to lower scores in a learning task that requires social cue integration.” Careful Bayesian modeling of this learning suggests that trait-related differences are not explained by a failure to process social stimuli per se, but rather by the extent to which participants afford precision to—or attend—social cues. So why is it important? For people unfamiliar with things like the Bayesian brain and precision, we start with a brief review of the ideas that motivated Sevgi et al. (
      • Sevgi M.
      • Diaconescu A.O.
      • Tittgemeyer M.
      • Schilbach L.
      Social Bayes: Using Bayesian modeling to study autistic trait–related differences in social cognition.
      ).
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      References

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        Precise minds in uncertain worlds: predictive coding in autism.
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        An aberrant precision account of autism.
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