Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 290–298

Extinction of Over-selected Stimuli Causes Emergence of Under-selected Cues in Higher-functioning Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders


    • Department of PsychologySwansea University
  • Laura Broomfield
    • Department of PsychologySwansea University
  • Louise McHugh
    • Department of PsychologySwansea University
  • Aisling McCausland
    • Department of PsychologyNational University of Ireland – Galway
  • Geraldine Leader
    • Department of PsychologyNational University of Ireland – Galway
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10803-008-0629-8

Cite this article as:
Reed, P., Broomfield, L., McHugh, L. et al. J Autism Dev Disord (2009) 39: 290. doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0629-8


Two experiments examined whether over-selectivity is the product of a post-acquisition performance deficit, rather than an attention problem. In both experiments, children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder were presented with a trial-and-error discrimination task using two, two-element stimuli and over-selected in both studies. After behavioral control by the previously over-selected stimulus was extinguished, behavioral control by the previously under-selected cue emerged without direct training. However, this effect was only found in higher-functioning children, and not with more severely impaired children. These findings suggest that over-selectivity is not simply due to a failure to attend to all of the stimuli presented. They also suggest that extinction of over-selected stimuli may be a fruitful line of intervention for clinical intervention for some individuals.


Over-selectivityBehavioral controlExtinctionComparator deficitAttentional deficit

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008