Do High-Functioning People with Autism Spectrum Disorder Spontaneously Use Event Knowledge to Selectively Attend to and Remember Context-Relevant Aspects in Scenes?

  • Eva LothEmail author
  • Juan Carlós Gómez
  • Francesca Happé
Original Paper


This study combined an event schema approach with top-down processing perspectives to investigate whether high-functioning children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) spontaneously attend to and remember context-relevant aspects of scenes. Participants read one story of story-pairs (e.g., burglary or tea party). They then inspected a scene (living room) of which some objects were relevant in that context, irrelevant (related to the non-emphasized event) or neutral (scene-schema related). During immediate and delayed recall, only the (TD) groups selectively recalled context-relevant objects, and significantly more context-relevant objects than the ASD groups. Gaze-tracking suggests that one factor in these memory differences may be diminished top-down effects of event schemas on initial attention (first ten fixations) to relevant items in ASD.


Autism spectrum disorders Top-down processes Event schemas Gaze-tracking Memory 



This research was funded by an ESRC early career fellowship to EL and a project grant by the Nuffield Foundation to EL, JCG and FH. We would like to thank all participants, their parents, and teachers for their help and support with this research. We also thank three anonymous reviewers for their very thoughtful and constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eva Loth
    • 1
    Email author
  • Juan Carlós Gómez
    • 2
  • Francesca Happé
    • 1
  1. 1.MRC Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of PsychiatryKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsScotland, UK

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