Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 42, Issue 11, pp 2383–2392 | Cite as

Flexible Visual Processing in Young Adults with Autism: The Effects of Implicit Learning on a Global–Local Task

  • Dana A. Hayward
  • David I. Shore
  • Jelena Ristic
  • Hanna Kovshoff
  • Grace Iarocci
  • Laurent Mottron
  • Jacob A. BurackEmail author
Original Paper


We utilized a hierarchical figures task to determine the default level of perceptual processing and the flexibility of visual processing in a group of high-functioning young adults with autism (n = 12) and a typically developing young adults, matched by chronological age and IQ (n = 12). In one task, participants attended to one level of the figure and ignored the other in order to determine the default level of processing. In the other task, participants attended to both levels and the proportion of trials in which a target would occur at either level was manipulated. Both groups exhibited a global processing bias and showed similar flexibility in performance, suggesting that persons with autism may not be impaired in flexible shifting between task levels.


High-functioning autism Visual attention Hierarchical figures Implicit learning 



We express our appreciation to the participants and their families. We would also like to thank the research assistants at the Clinique Spécialisée des Troubles Envahissants du Développement, Hôpital Rivière-des-Praries, especially Patricia Jelenic. Jacob A. (Jake) Burack’s work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Laurent Mottron’s work was supported by Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and David Shore’s work was supported by and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council discovery grant. We also thank Heidi Flores and Tania Fernandes for their help in the preparation of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dana A. Hayward
    • 1
  • David I. Shore
    • 2
  • Jelena Ristic
    • 1
  • Hanna Kovshoff
    • 3
  • Grace Iarocci
    • 4
  • Laurent Mottron
    • 5
  • Jacob A. Burack
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour (PNB)McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  4. 4.Department of PsychologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  5. 5.Clinique Spécialisée des Troubles Envahissants du DéveloppementHôpital Rivière-des-PrariesMontréalCanada
  6. 6.Department of Education and Counselling PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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