How Do We Explain ‛Autistic Traits’ in European Upper Palaeolithic Art?

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Traits in Upper Palaeolithic art which are also seen in the work of talented artists with autism, including an exceptional realism, remain to be explained. Debate over explanations has been heated, ranging from such art having been created by individuals with autism spectrum conditions, to being influenced by such individuals, to being a product of the use of psychotropic drugs. Here we argue that 'autistic traits' in art, such as extreme realism, are the product of local processing bias or detail focus. The significance of local processing bias has implications for our understanding of Upper Palaeolithic society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-279
Number of pages18
JournalOpen Archaeology
Issue number1
Early online date12 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Penny Spikins et al., published by De Gruyter.


  • Upper Palaeolithic
  • art
  • autism
  • detail focus
  • talent
  • exceptional realism

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