Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 41, Issue 11, pp 1573–1578 | Cite as

Brief Report: Perceptual Load and the Autism Spectrum in Typically Developed Individuals

Brief Report

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Flanker task Autism spectrum quotient Perceptual load Attention Visual search 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Merryn Constable, Dana Schneider, Sheyna Ezrapour, Harriet Dempsey-Jones, Brenda Ocampo, Elizabeth Beadle, Jasmine Loo and Daphne Bryan for assistance with data collection. This work was supported by a UQ Postdoctoral Fellowship awarded to Andrew Bayliss.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.McElwain Building, School of PsychologyUniversity of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia

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