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Sol Sun, Ryan Stevenson, Naomi Hazlett, Morgan Barense, Jonathan Cant, Susanne Ferber; Individual differences in autistic traits predict visual binding abilities. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):846. doi: 10.1167/15.12.846.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
A core symptom of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a deficit in binding sensory inputs into a unified representation. Past research suggests that these impairments extend from lower-level perceptual grouping to higher-level holistic face perception. Given that visuo-spatial attention plays a critical role in binding, we hypothesized that normally-distributed autistic traits in the healthy population would predict the degree to which attentional scope could be modified to influence holistic face perception. We directed participants to adopt either a global or local attentional scope using a Navon task. Participants viewed pairs of Navon letters (big letters composed of small letters) and made same/different judgments based on attention to the big (global scope) or small (local scope) letter. The effects of this manipulation were measured on the composite face task, a well-established measure of holistic face perception. Autistic traits and sensory processing styles were measured using the Autism Quotient (AQ) and Sensory Profile (SP), respectively. In the Navon task, we observed a global interference effect, that is, greater susceptibility to interference from global information, relative to local. Furthermore, individuals with higher SP scores showed weaker global interference effects. ASD has been associated with both abnormal sensory processing styles, as well as weaker global interference effects. Consistent with this idea, we found an interaction in that SP was more strongly associated with global interference in individuals with higher AQ scores. In the composite face task, we found that the attention-to-detail subscale of the AQ predicted differences in susceptibility to the composite face illusion between global and local conditions. Specifically, individuals high in autistic traits were less capable of adopting a global attentional setting, which led to weaker holistic face perception. These results shed light on how autistic traits and sensory processing styles converge to influence visual binding abilities.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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