Attentional shifting differences in autism: Domain general, domain specific or both?

Simona Skripkauskaite, Lance Slade, Jennifer Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


LAY ABSTRACT: Previous research has shown that autistic individuals look at other people less and orient to them more slowly than others. Yet, it is still unclear if this represents general visual differences (e.g. slower looking at any new information, social or not) or a uniquely social difference (e.g. only slower looking to humans but not objects). Here, we aimed to examine how quickly autistic and non-autistic adults look to and away from social (i.e. faces) and non-social information (i.e. squares and houses). We used an attentional shifting task with two images where sometimes the first image disappears before the new image appears (makes it easier to notice the new image) and other times it stays on the screen when the new image appears. In Experiment 1, we showed schematic faces and squares to 27 autistic and 26 non-autistic adults, and in Experiment 2, we showed photographs of faces and houses to 18 autistic and 17 non-autistic adults. In general, autistic adults looked at the new non-social or social images similarly to non-autistic adults. Yet, only autistic adults looked at new social information faster when the first image disappeared before the new image appeared. This shows that autistic individuals may find it easier to notice new social information if their attention is not already occupied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13623613211001619
JournalAutism : The International Journal of Research and Practice
Issue number6
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Mar 2021

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