Brief Report: Perceptual Load and the Autism Spectrum in Typically Developed Individuals
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- Bayliss, A.P. & Kritikos, A. J Autism Dev Disord (2011) 41: 1573. doi:10.1007/s10803-010-1159-8
A fundamental task of the cognitive system is to prioritize behaviourally relevant sensory inputs for processing at the expense of irrelevant inputs. In a study of neurotypical participants (n = 179), we utilized a brief flanker interference task while varying the perceptual load of the visual display. Typically, increasing perceptual load (i.e., with greater numbers of search items) reduces interference from a competing peripheral distractor. We show that individuals who score above average on the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) show stronger interference at high perceptual load than individuals with below-average AQ scores. This is consistent with recent findings in individuals with autism spectrum conditions, and supports the idea that the cognitive style of the autistic brain is reflected in a broader phenotype across the population.