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Carmel Mevorach, Mayra Muller Spaniol, Lilach Shalev; Enhanced pro-active distractor filtering in adults with high autistic traits. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1338. doi: 10.1167/15.12.1338.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition involving a variety of impairments including impaired social interaction and restricted and repetitive interests and activities. While ASD is heterogeneous in its presentation, a number of studies have attempted to highlight core impairment in attention in ASD. However, such studies have reported somewhat conflicting findings. For instance, it has been suggested that ASD is often accompanied by impaired attention disengagement but also improved ability to ignore irrelevant distractors. In two experiments we investigated performance of typically developed adults with or without high autistic traits (AQ, Baron-Cohen et al., 2001) in tasks highlighting distractor filtering in a pro-active manner. In the first experiment participants had to select the global or local aspect of a hierarchical letter under conditions where the target or the distractor level is more salient; in the second, we measured performance threshold when participants identify a face in a morphed face continuum superimposed on an irrelevant distractor. Across the two experiments we found that adults with high AQ were better at ignoring distractors than adults with low AQ. In the global/local task the high AQ group exhibited smaller congruency effects and in the morphed faces task they exhibited increased thresholds. Critically however, there were no overall differences in either the global and local conditions or in the morphed face categorization functions across the groups, precluding differences in low-level perceptual processes. The data support the notion that autistic tendencies are associated with increased attention filtering. We hypothesize that this enhanced filtering represents a bias towards pro-active control of attention (when the task set should be invoked in advance of stimuli presentation). This bias may in turn compromise re-active control, which might be called upon in situations where attention must be disengaged and reoriented.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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