Brief Report: Perceptual Load and the Autism Spectrum in Typically Developed Individuals
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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.
KeywordsFlanker task Autism spectrum quotient Perceptual load Attention Visual search
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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