It is the theory of Allan Snyder that the underlying mechanism of savantism is an access to "lower-level, less-processed information, before its packaged into holistic concepts and meaningful labels." (Snyder, 2009). This theory of his builds on the theory that Savant Syndrome is caused by lesioning in the left anterior temporal lobe, which is responsible for seeing the implications stimulus has on survival and/or social interaction. This is where "the bigger picture" is often mentioned, the implications on survival and/or social interaction being defined as the bigger picture, which is true from an evolutionary perspective.

However, in the theory that says that the underlying mechanism of savantism is a hyper-focus on the details and thus a neglect of the bigger picture, is this "bigger picture" the surivival/social context, or is it the conceptual context (in a more general sense)? I'll explain my question with an example:

Let's say someone describes a person with a set of injuries putting them in a life threatening condition. The person receiving the description has LATL damage / savantism as described by Snyder's theory.

Following the first interpretation, where the "bigger picture" is the survival/social context, this is how the savant will respond.

They will absorb all the details facts of the injuries, and would be able to recall this perfectly (given they're a typical savant with a great memory capacity and recall). However, they would not as well at a neurotypical person see the social implications, and would therefore be less likely to remember to act socially appropriately given how someone's injured. They may conclude something unpleasant from the facts given, and state this conclusion without any cushioning, as they're forgetting the social implications of the meaning of what they're saying/about to say. I know not all theories of the LATL implicate it in social processing, but the same logic could be applied to a different theory.

The second interpretation, where the "bigger picture" is the conceptually bigger picture. Here, it's about not just seeing all the individual details, but being able to piece them together into a larger picture. According to this interpretation, savants are less able to do this.

In this scenario, the savant would absorb all the details as before. However, compared to a neurotypical person also knowledgeable in medicine, they would be less likely to realize the combinatorial effect of all these facts they know so well. Let's say the combinatorial effect is; given all these injuries, this person will die. This interpretation of a savant might not realize this, because although they can absorb and recall and the nitty gritty details of the person's condition, they are worse at seeing the bigger picture that these details create (unless that bigger picture is explicitly stated of course).

So, which of these interpretations is correct? Are savants worse at piecing together all the details into an understanding of the larger idea? Or, do savants just lack the ability to see the implications these details have on social interaction and survival? Or, is it both? Or, is it neither?



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