How Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Spontaneously Attend to Real-Life Scenes: Use of a "Change Blindness" Paradigm

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
M. Hochhauser1 and O. Grynszpan2, (1)University of Haifa, Haifa, ISRAEL, (2)CNRS UMR 7222, Institute of Intelligent Systems and Robotics, CNRS ISIR UMR 7222, Paris, France
Background: Current behavioral research in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) argues in favor of a dissociation between superior abilities in detecting visual details and deficient visual attention towards relevant social signals. The component of visual attention was assessed through "change blindness", a perceptual occurrence that transpires when a change in a visual stimulus is introduced and the observer does not notice it straightaway. 

Objectives: To compare the visual attention of adolescents with and without (ASD) when viewing real-life stimuli by measuring the response times between the time observers were asked to search for a change in a visual stimulus task and the time they detected the change.

Methods: Twenty-eight adolescents with high-functioning ASD aged 12- 18 years and 25 matched TD adolescents viewed 36 pairs of digitized photographs. Each pair was identical apart from a single difference in the presence or absence of a particular item. This item was either a central component of the scene depicted on the photograph or was a marginal detail. The images were displayed in a ‘flicker paradigm’ whereby the item alternately appeared and disappeared. 

Results: As expected marginal details were harder to detect than central components of the scenes. However, the pattern of response times did not differ significantly between the two groups of participants.

Conclusions: Adolescents with ASD did not demonstrate different change blindness behavior compared with TD. These results, although supported by previous findings using a similar paradigm, challenge the hypothesis of superior visual detection abilities in ASD and warrant further analysis