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Jacalyn Guy, Jacob Burack, Laurent Mottron, Armando Bertone; How does configuration affect the allocation of visual attention in autism? A change detection study.. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):479. doi: 10.1167/16.12.479.
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Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often allocate their attention to social information differently than typically developing (TD) individuals. For example, they direct their attention to the periphery, looking more at the background (i.e. the back plane) than the foreground (i.e. the front plane) of a social scene (Klin et al, 2003, Kikuchi et al, 2009). They also focus more on details rather than the context. In contrast, TD individuals devote more of their attention within a scene to the people, who are typically in the foreground. However, as TD individuals also prioritize foreground information in scenes that are void of social content, such as geometric displays, the question is whether individuals with ASD would prioritize non-social information in the foreground in a similar manner. In this study, 31 participants with ASD and 29 TD participants completed an adapted version of a change detection paradigm (Mazza et al, 2005). We measured how accurately participants could detect changes in colour between two successively presented, geometric displays. The background of the displays consisted of 20 columns comprising 10 vertically oriented rectangles (alternating between purple/green and blue/red), and the foreground consisted of 6 horizontally oriented rectangles (3 purple/green and 3 blue/red) arranged in either a circular (configural) or random (non-configural) manner. Changes occurred in either the foreground or background; the horizontal rectangles changed color in the foreground, whereas the vertical rectangles changed colour in the background. Both groups were better at detecting changes in (i) the foreground than the background and (ii) non-configural rather than configural displays. Conclusions point to a similar pattern of visual prioritization, suggesting that configuration does not differentially affect change detection in TD or ASD. Any differences in the spontaneous allocation of attention in ASD may therefore be driven more by social, rather than perceptual factors.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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