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Scott Reed, Paul Dassonville; Embedded Figures Performance is Modulated by an ‘Analytical Tendencies’ Factor within the Systemizing Trait of Autism. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):845. doi: 10.1167/13.9.845.
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The systemizing trait of autism (Wheelwright et al., 2006) has recently been found to contain a two-factor structure that differentially predicts a shift from reliance on global to local contextual cues, with an ‘analytical tendencies’ factor associated with decreased susceptibility to global cues and an ‘insistence on sameness’ factor associated with increased susceptibility to local cues (Reed & Dassonville, VSS 2012). Sensitivity to contextual visual cues has also been suggested to modulate performance in complex visual search tasks, such as in the Embedded Figures Test (EFT). In the EFT, an observer searches for a target object embedded in the gestalt of an extraneous contextual array. Studies have reported that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exhibit superior performance on this task (Jolliffe & Baron-Cohen, 1997). It is unclear, however, whether this enhanced performance can be attributed to cognitive drives associated with a heightened processing of the local target, attenuated processing of the global context of the array, or some combination of the two. To test this, we compared performance on the EFT to scores from the general population on the two factors of the Systemizing Quotient – Revised (‘analytical tendencies’ and ‘insistence on sameness’). While scores on the ‘insistence on sameness’ factor were not predictive of performance, higher scores on the ‘analytical tendencies’ factor were significantly associated with superior EFT performance. These results suggest that heightened analytical tendencies can facilitate target disembedding in complex visual search tasks, likely through attenuated interference from the global context of the search array.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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