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A developmental theory of autism is presented as an alternative to current nativist theories. The traits of autism are seen as results of failure of the process of social learning. The distinction between social learning and ontogenic discovery is discussed and a model of normal social learning is presented, showing its cyclical nature and signi"cance. Recognized traits of autism are brie#y described and classi"ed, and it is shown how the main categories of traits could result from defectivedoi:10.1016/s0732-118x(00)00016-7 fatcat:c5runzjk75evbo4grfwklse5fm