August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Rapid resumption of interrupted visual search in autism
Author Affiliations
  • Owen Parsons
    Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge
  • Jan Freyberg
    Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge
  • Simon Baron-Cohen
    Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 348. doi:
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      Owen Parsons, Jan Freyberg, Simon Baron-Cohen; Rapid resumption of interrupted visual search in autism. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):348.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Introduction: Visual perception is influenced by prior experiences and learned expectations. One example of this is the ability to rapidly resume visual search after an interruption to the stimuli. It has recently been suggested that atypical visual perception in autism spectrum conditions (ASC) can be explained by attenuated use of prior information during perception. However, there is a current lack of empirical evidence to comprehensively evaluate this theory. Objectives: We aimed to use an interrupted search paradigm to assess whether rapid resumption is intact in ASC. We hypothesize that attenuated use of prior information in perception would lead to a reduced ability to rapidly resume searches after interruption. Methods: Participants with (N=18) and without ASC (N=20) were asked to complete a visual search task in which search displays were periodically interrupted by blank displays. Participants were required to locate a 'T' shaped target amongst 'L' shaped distractors and to report its color. Search displays contained either 16 or 32 distractors. During trials the search display would only be visible for 100ms presentations separated by a 900ms blank display. Participants completed a total of 300 trials, divided across 10 blocks. Results: Reaction time distributions were normalized separately for responses occurring between the first and second exposures of displays and responses occurring after subsequent exposures. Distributions were compared using Chi-squared tests. In both groups the distribution of responses immediately following the first exposure differed significantly from the distribution of responses following subsequent exposures (p< .001). We found no difference in the distributions of responses occurring following subsequent exposures between the two groups (p>.250). Discussion: Out results suggest that rapid resumption is unimpaired in ASC. These findings are in contrast to the hypo-priors account, suggesting that prior information is used normally by individuals with ASC during visual search.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016


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