Attentional allocation of autism spectrum disorder individuals: Searching for a Face-in-the-Crowd

David J Moore, John Reidy, Lisa Heavey
Autism: the International Journal of Research and Practice 2016, 20 (2): 163-71
A study is reported which tests the proposition that faces capture the attention of those with autism spectrum disorders less than a typical population. A visual search task based on the Face-in-the-Crowd paradigm was used to examine the attentional allocation of autism spectrum disorder adults for faces. Participants were required to search for discrepant target images from within 9-image arrays. Both participants with autism spectrum disorder and control participants demonstrated speeded identification of faces compared to non-face objects. This indicates that when attention is under conscious control, both autism spectrum disorder and typically developing comparison adults show an attentional bias for faces, which contrasts with previous research which found an absence of an attentional bias for faces in autism spectrum disorder. Theoretical implications of this differentiation are discussed.

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