Visual Detection and Decoding of Aerial Photographs in Adults with ASD

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
Y. S. Bonneh1, H. Marciano2, K. Ruth3 and E. Gal4, (1)Optometry and Vision Science, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, ISRAEL, (2)Institute of Information Processing and Decision Making, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel, (3)Department of Psychology and Institute of Information Processing and Decision Making, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel, (4)University of Haifa, University of Haifa, ISRAEL
Background: People with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (HFASD) typically face difficulties in employment. One potential approach to this problem is to take advantage of their known strengths, such as the often observed enhanced perception of details and superior visual search. In the current study we investigated these potential strengths in a battery of real-worlds tasks of decryption of aerial and satellite photographs.

Objectives: Study visual detection and decoding skills for details embedded in aerial photographs in adults with HFASD compared to matched controls. Investigate the different components involved in these real-life skills by additional tests, including the classical visual-search, embedded figures and vigilance.

Methods: 40 young male adults (17-21 years), 20 with HFASD and 20 typically developed (control), participated in the experiments. The groups had comparable scores on the Raven Matrix test for intellectual abilities. They were tested in three one-hour sessions on a battery of visual tests. Five tests on aerial-photographs detection and decoding included: (1) "stamp detection", where observers had to locate a small patch (stamp) in a large image; (2) "change detection", where observers had to mark the change between two images presented side by side; (3) " identification by legend", where observers had to use a 6-vehicle legend to identify highly degraded photographs of the vehicles embedded in a terrain; (4) A similar "vehicle Identification", such as a truck, private car, and bus; (5) "contrast threshold", where observer had to detect and mark multiple low contrast natural objects (e.g. deer) embedded in a photograph. Additional tests included: (a) Visual Search, with the classical feature (color, shape) and conjunction search tasks; (b) Embedded Figure Test (EFT) with 12 complex figures; (c) Vigilance Test, where observers viewed a constantly changing display of multiple letters in color and had to search for one of 3 target letters.

Results: Overall, no significant differences between groups were found in most tests, including visual search. The HFASD group had a small significant advantage in the EFT and the “stamp detection” test, but a small disadvantage in the "identification by legend" and "vehicle identification" tests, as well as in the vigilance test. Correlation analysis between tests across observers showed that the Raven matrix test was significantly correlated with all other tests, while the Vigilance Test was correlated with most tests in the control but not HFASD group. Additional correlations were found between the visual search slopes and the EFT and "identification by legend" response times, but these effects differed between groups.

Conclusions: Contrary to expectations, no significant superiority of the HFASD was found, including in conjunction search. The conjunction search slopes in the HFASD group were very similar to previous studies, while our control group performed better than previously reported. The fact that the vast majority of our control group members were "video gamers" (>5 weekly hours of play) could explain some superior performance. Overall, the results indicate performance as good as controls by the HFASD participants and a potential successful employment in work related to decryption of aerial and satellite photographs.