Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Enhanced Perceptual Functioning – The Bad

The paper Enhanced Perceptual Functioning in Autism: An Update, and Eight Principles of Autistic Perception (Mottron, Dawson, Soulières, Hubert, Burack, 2006) is one of the few autism research articles that attempts to get at the heart of what autism is. Nonetheless, I would be hesitant to recommend it as reading to anyone, because its prose is utterly wretched.

Almost any of the paper’s unparsable sentences could serve for illustration. Let me offer the following as both egregious and representative:

This unusual threshold profile is not concordant with a straightforward intact vs. impaired dichotomy as it depicts a different ‘‘default setting’’ of discrimination performance according to the level of complexity of visual information.

Admittedly, Enhanced Perceptual Functioning is only somewhat less readable than the average academic morass; but really, is it too much to ask of the research community that it construct sentences actually renderable by human lips?

I have two working theories as to why this paper’s rhetoric is so particularly abysmal. The first is that it results from too many bad translations from French into English during development; the second is that the paper is yet one more all-too-obvious example of why writing by committee is such a bad idea. Given the outcome, I suspect the paper is suffering the multiplicative effects of both forms of torture.

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