Children and Adults with Autism Detect Rapidly Presented Temporal Information More Accurately Than Typically Developing Individuals
Objectives: The goal of this study was to extend the notion of enhanced visual search to the temporal domain and across development in individuals with autism.
Methods: We tested children (n = 21) and adults (n = 4) with autism, as well as mental-age matched TD children (n = 21) and adults (n = 4) in two rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) tasks at six different presentation rates (13, 26, 39, 65, 91, 195 ms/item). In the Color task, participants detected a purple target letter amongst black letter distractors, while in the Category task, participants detected a black letter amongst black number distractors.
Results: Across all groups and both tasks, slower presentation rates resulted in higher accuracy. In the Color task, adults with ASD were more accurate than TD adults at shorter presentation rates, but similar at longer presentation rates. Children with ASD showed comparable performance to TD adults at shorter presentation rates and outperformed TD children across presentation rates. In the Category task, all adults were more accurate than children except at the shortest presentation rates. Children with ASD were more accurate than TD children across the majority of presentation rates, while no significant differences were found between adults with ASD and TD adults.
Conclusions: These results suggest that both children and adults with ASD experience enhanced visual processing in the temporal domain, particularly in tasks involving temporal binding of stimulus features (i.e., binding a color to a letter).