Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, 39:330

The Effect of Stimulus Salience on Over-selectivity


  • Geraldine Leader
    • Department of PsychologyNational University of Ireland – Galway
  • Ann Loughnane
    • Department of PsychologyNational University of Ireland – Galway
  • Claire McMoreland
    • Department of PsychologySwansea University
    • Department of PsychologySwansea University
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10803-008-0626-y

Cite this article as:
Leader, G., Loughnane, A., McMoreland, C. et al. J Autism Dev Disord (2009) 39: 330. doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0626-y


The influence of stimulus salience on over-selective responding was investigated in the context of a comparator theory of over-selectivity. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants were presented with two cards, each displaying two colors. In comparison to matched control participants, participants with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) demonstrated more over-selectivity, which increased when the stimuli differed in salience. In Experiment 3, the over-selected color was extinguished, and the previously under-selected color emerged to control behavior. The results suggest that stimuli of different salience may trigger over-selectivity in individuals with ASD, and provide preliminary support that this may be due to the action of an over-sensitive comparator mechanism functioning at the retrieval level of processing.


Over-selectivityComparator mechanismStimulus salienceExtinction

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008