Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
Savants are individual people who are able to show extraordinary skills that the average human being could not show on their own. Savants also show signs of not having specific cognitive skills that most humans need to have to be apart of society. This is why scientist have linked savants to autism, calling it savant syndrome. Autistic savants many not be able to function but they are able to use other parts of their brains effectively or even better, giving them savant like talents. Calendar calculations, this is when an individual can give the day of the week of any given date at a lightning speed. According to research, this is a huge trait of most individuals who are classified as a savant. Scientist are basically saying that because one part is turned off the other part is heightened like a sense for example if you are blind you may be be able to hear a lot better than the average person. Even though it is said that scientist do this research to better understand what causes this imbalance in skill of people linked to autism, scientist are prompting savants on skills causing any research to be superior over other findings. some of the test provided to these savants are proven to increase their intelligence on that topic just by being exposed to them. Even when scientist know these people are savants, they continue to to see what causes it but are in turn promoting practice.
Many test are done on savants but these could be the guide to sharpening their skills. Experiments on many occasions in past years have proven that with practice you can see extraordinary savant skills in ordinary people. If normal individuals are able to learn these skills, then what stops a savant from learning then These are some of the test that are being used to study savants today. For example, in Cowen and Carneys article, in their second experiment, which had to do with calendrical calculations, showed that with practice this skill that is present in some talented savants can be learned over time. In the discussion it read that “GC progressed from using cumbersome and time-consuming written methods to answering remote future date questions by purely mental calculation”(Cowen and Carney). These results show that any hypothesis about the development of calendrical skills by savants is true and skills do develop with practice and require no exceptional cognitive characteristics. The saying practice makes perfect is not always correct. But the phrase perfect practice makes perfect shows that when you are limited in your thinking, things like practice is easier for you. This is the same as saying the less you have to think about, the more you can think and perfect things already in your mind. Scientist continue to believe this because they see that more and more people discovered as savants, are linked to autism. A good point is brought up about savants when Hughes uses the ideas from Simner, one of his resources, to say “hours spent achieving savant ability are the result not of mind-blindness, but of the autism-linked trait of obsessiveness—i.e. savants have an obsessive urge to over-rehearse their skills to prodigious levels”. This shows that autistic savants do not just have these abilities because of their disorder, but because their disorder causes them to need to practice these things thus, making it easier to do them. You could argue that because of this trait of obsessiveness that is not found in the average human, this is the reason why non autistic people are not able to develop savant syndrome. They are not obsessed with the idea that they have to practice this over and over again because their brain is wired much differently. They are not missing many key cognitive skills that most people linked with autism are missing making it easy to drift from practice and making it hard no to practice for savants.
Even without direct experimentation with a savant, Cowen and Carneys study proved that it could be done but it was a matter of will power that was needed from a non autistic person. These studies shows signs of prompted practice from scientist and means that they are unconsciously assisting these people with practice and causing results to look like they are on the high side. In actuality they are, what someone would call, padding the data to make it look like their discovery is huge. In another study about calendar calculations, Iavarone and his team were able to do direct work with someone who was caratorized as a savant or having savant skills. After it was found out that this male had autism and also had special abilities to calculate the day of the week from a random date from any year, they were able to do test and understand that this was an effect of a misconnection in his brain. But what do these tests consist of? The tests that were being done would not let nature create its own path but instead sciented created an experimental study from what should have been an observational study. They gave this client dates over and over and he was evaluated long term and they were able to track his progress. With time the patient was able to improve its learning even with the prior knowledge of these calculations. Also in continuing research, others were found that had calendar calculation skills but were using another skill to allow them to do that. People used anchor dates to help them remember a pattern or relationship. It is said that the patients performance was due to a computation algorithm that was able to tap into one’s central cognitive processing in turn allowing them to have this skill. This shows that it does make it easier for people linked to autism to make these calculations because they are able to access these cognitive aids that others do not have access to. It is like saying for example that someone is autistic and has a problem with understanding language but I do not.
Because of this whole in their mind it allows the viod to be filled with things much easier, like an algorithm. So this would make the non autistic person, being me, not able to hold on to this pattern and use it as a skill. But this does not make it impossible it just makes it harder and requires more work because some many things are blocking this transmission of the algorithm. It is interesting to know that with this pattern plastered in a savants brian, “the error pattern in producing responses, both in the savant calculators and in the multi-layer network, would be predictable. For instance, using a wrong ‘‘anchor’’ date for a given year, e.g., 1st March 1999 = Monday instead of Sunday; would result into systematic 1-day error for dates of this year.” (Iavarone) once this was seen by a savant they would not be able to fix it until introduced that the solution because the algorithm is still there. It’s like putting calculations into a calculator and telling it to find the corresponding equation for the line. The calculator has an algorithm that it follows but if you were to put in the wrong numbers, it would give you a false output. But without this algorithm a non autistic person could be able to spot this problem because they are not missing the cognitive parts of their brain that people linked to autism miss because of their disorder. This makes error less likely and also less robotic. The scare of these errors in savants is the reason most scientist do these test over and over again. They want to make sure that they have the best findings. They want to say to others that they found out what makes a savant a savant. Doing these tests is promoting practice for the savant and ultimately making the data expandable.
If you are trying to prove unexplainable high intelligence then giving then tests over a long period of time just sharpens their brian. Studies without savants have proven this and show that time is all that is needed to imitate intelligence. From watching autistic savants in case studies and experiments like Morasse’s Hypermnesia is the term used for having enhanced memory based on something traumatic. It was said that during the developmental phase of a patient’s life, like the things that his mother did caused his brain to suffer a bit. But this also opened channels for him to be able to acquire skills that most of the general population may not have. If a scientist were to replicate this it would be bad. The only chance they could have at this would be an observational study of someone who was believed to have faced something traumatic. Looking into specific stories helps explain what is happening to someone with a cognitive disability similar to his is doing in his mind and what channels they are opening up. Interference was a huge problem when compiling information from these test. It could have made or broken what skills they possess based on what they had faced in life or in experimentation. According to the results from Morasse’s study, it could have been proactive- previously learned material- or retroactive- newly learned material- that was interfering and causing gaps in cognitive information. This meant that any test being done on these patients could have blocked other cognitive information or induced it because of how clear their mind was or how jumbled with information it was becoming. There is not an exact way of knowing where this interference is coming from but signs point to it all being present in autistic savants. Other body systems seemed to have a big effect and show positive results relating to savant syndrome.
According to Young’s study on savant syndrome, savant syndrome can be described in a neurological way. The skills are present because of some impairment to the brain. Even though the skills that are shown in savants are not visibly present in the general population, they still have the ability to do these things. Cognitive processing is too high and it interferes with being able to access these skills, this is why normal people do not have the talent and skills that savants have. Doing these studies on non savants proved that non savants are able to learn these trick but without constant practice, they would go away gradually. But with savants they seem to be able to hold on to the skills they discover and perfect over time. Scientists began looking for other ways to replicate this ability or to enhance it in those who have already showed signs of it. Young’s study was similar to most, but he did research and tests on normal patients to see if they are able to flip the neurological switch that turns off the frontal lobe processing in their brains, in turn allowing them to be able to access these skills shown in savants. The results show that only a small number of the participants showed change in different variable types. For example calendrical calculation ability was shown by only one participant who correctly identified the dates for any circumstance. This shows that he was not able to replicate savant syndrome, but what about the patients that he flipped the switch off on? Did they later start showing signs of autism? Because if this is true, then savant syndrome can be directly linked to autism. He did not specify what he did at the end of this test.
Only the results were provided. If savant like behaviors could be induced in normal person then this could prove that savants that are being tested could increase their intelligence with these same tests, throwing the entire study off. These would be fake or self produced results and data. Only about 50% of savant syndrome cases are linked to autism and the of half are linked to other disabilities. These cognitive disabilities have sparked an interest in savant syndrome, making this 10% of the population special and attention drawn. So many of these studies are being done that you could almost prove that they bost intelligence in savants by the way they affect non savants. A few other findings have linked these savant traits to neurological aspects. Puente, for example says that some “theory postulates that the left hemisphere of the brain is underdeveloped or injured, and therefore the right hemisphere compensates. Generally, the left hemisphere is associated with verbal, logical and rational information functioning, whereas the right hemisphere is associated with spatial, nonlinear, and holistic functioning.s’ this is a reason for the missing cognitive abilities is some savants. The two hemispheres are not able to correctly connect in the ways that they should be. This results in a concentration of thoughts that just are not there. The tests were used to see if over a span of a year the patient was able to exhibit change and or constant accuracy on these calculations. They were proved 100%. This shows practice is evident in most savants.