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Benjamin Lester, Scott Reed, David Williamson, Paul Dassonville; Surround Suppression is Modulated by a "Need for Sameness" Factor Within the Systemizing Trait of Autism. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):1299. doi: 10.1167/12.9.1299.
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The systemizing trait of autism is currently regarded as a uni-dimensional measure of the tendency to analyze the world in a mechanistic, systematic manner (Wheelwright et al., 2006). Recent work has shown that individuals high on the systemizing quotient are less susceptible to a class of visual illusions known to affect an observer’s egocentric reference frame (Walter et al., 2009). However, follow-up work (Reed & Dassonville, VSS 2012) using a principal components analysis has uncovered a two-factor structure to the Systemizing Quotient-Revised (SQ-R), with one factor (i.e., ‘analytical tendencies’) associated with decreased reliance on global-level visual context and the second (i.e., ‘need for sameness’) associated with an increased reliance on local-level visual information. In an attempt to further characterize the perceptual abilities associated with this two-factor structure, we examined contextual processing using surround suppression, in which the perceived contrast of a central sine-wave grating is reduced when surrounded by a high contrast surround. Past work (Bair et al., 2003) has shown that surround suppression is driven by inhibitory interactions within and between early visual areas (e.g., V1, V2, & MT). Because the ‘need for sameness’ factor is associated with a local perceptual bias, we predicted that surround suppression would be significantly correlated with scores on the ‘need for sameness’ factor and unrelated to scores on the ‘analytical tendencies’ factor. This pattern of results was obtained, with the ‘need for sameness’ positively correlated with surround suppression susceptibility (individuals high in this factor show increased surround suppression), while ‘analytical tendencies’ were unrelated to surround suppression. These results further support the hypothesis that the "need for sameness" subcomponent of the systemizing trait of autism is associated with a local visual processing bias.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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