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

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Publication details

JournalOpen Archaeology
DateSubmitted - Apr 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 21 Dec 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 12 May 2018
DatePublished (current) - 2018
Issue number1
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)263-279
Early online date12/05/18
Original languageEnglish


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.

Bibliographical note

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

    Research areas

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



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