Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 10, pp 2259–2268 | Cite as

Practice Makes Improvement: How Adults with Autism Out-Perform Others in a Naturalistic Visual Search Task

  • Cleotilde Gonzalez
  • Jolie M. Martin
  • Nancy J. Minshew
  • Marlene Behrmann
Original Paper

Abstract

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often exhibit superior performance in visual search compared to others. However, most studies demonstrating this advantage have employed simple, uncluttered images with fully visible targets. We compare the performance of high-functioning adults with ASD and matched controls on a naturalistic luggage screening task. Although the two groups were equally accurate in detecting targets, the ASD adults improve in their correct elimination of target-absent bags faster than controls. This feature of their behavior is extremely important for many real-world monitoring tasks that require sustained attention for long time periods. Further analyses suggest that this improvement is attributable neither to the motor speed nor to the level of intelligence of the adults with ASD. These findings may have possible implications for employment opportunities of adult individuals with ASD.

Keywords

Autism Visual search Luggage screening 

References

  1. Ballard, J. C. (1996). Computerized assessment of sustained attention: A review of factors affecting vigilance performance. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Psychology, 18(6), 843–863.Google Scholar
  2. Behrmann, M., Avidan, G., Leonard, G. L., Kimchi, R., Luna, B., Humphreys, K., et al. (2006). Configural processing in autism and its relationship to face processing. Neuropsychologia, 44(1), 110–129.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brosnan, M. J., Scott, F. J., Fox, S., & Pye, J. (2004). Gestalt processing in autism: Failure to process perceptual relationships and the implications for contextual understanding. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(3), 459–469.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brunstein, A., & Gonzalez, C. (2011). Preparing for novelty with diverse training. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25(5), 682–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caron, M.-J., Mottron, L., & Berthiaume, C. (2006). Cognitive mechanisms, specificity and neural underpinnings of the block design peak in autism. Brain, 129(7), 1789–1802.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clotfelter, C. T., & Cook, P. J. (1993). The “gambler’s fallacy” in lottery play. Management Science, 39(12), 1521–1525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dakin, S., & Frith, U. (2005). Vagaries of visual perception in autism. Neuron, 48(3), 497–507.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dutt, V., & Gonzalez, C. (2012). The role of inertia in modeling decisions from experience with Instance-Based Learning. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(177), 1–12.Google Scholar
  9. Gonzalez, C., Best, B. J., Healy, A. F., Bourne, L. E., Jr, & Kole, J. A. (2010). A cognitive modeling account of simultaneous learning and fatigue effects. Journal of Cognitive Systems Research, 12(1), 19–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gonzalez, C., & Madhavan, P. (2011). Diversity during training enhances detection of novel stimuli. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 23(3), 342–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gowen, E., & Hamilton, A. (2012). Motor abilities in autism: A review using a computational context. Journal of Autism Development Disorders, Jun 22 (Epub ahead of print).Google Scholar
  12. Happe, F. (1999). Autism: Cognitive deficit or cognitive style? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 3(6), 216–222.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Happe, F., & Frith, U. (2006). The weak coherence account: Detail-focused cognitive style in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism Development Disorder, 36(1), 5–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jarrold, C., Gilchrist, I. D., & Bender, A. (2005). Embedded figures detection in autism and typical development: Preliminary evidence of a double dissociation in relationships with visual search. Developmental Science, 8(4), 344–351.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jolliffe, T., & Baron-Cohen, S. (1997). Are people with autism and Asperger syndrome faster than normal on the embedded figures test? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38(5), 527–534.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Joseph, R. M., Keehn, B., Connolly, C., Wolfe, J. M., & Horowitz, T. S. (2009). Why is visual search superior in autism spectrum disorder? Developmental Science, 12(6), 1083–1096.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kaldy, Z., Kraper, C., Carter, A. S., & Blaser, E. (2011). Toddlers with autism spectrum disorder are more successful at visual search than typically developing toddlers. Developmental Science, 1–9.Google Scholar
  18. Kana, R. K., Libero, L. E., & Moore, M. S. (2011). Disrupted cortical connectivity theory as an explanatory model for autism spectrum disorders. Physics of Life Reviews, 8(4), 410–437.Google Scholar
  19. Keita, L., Mottron, L., Dawson, M., & Bertone, A. (2011). Atypical lateral connectivity: A neural basis for altered visuospatial processing in autism. Biological Psychiatry, 70(9), 806–811. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.07.031.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kemner, C., van der Geest, J. N., Verbaten, M. H., & van Engeland, H. (2004). In search of neurophysical markers of pervasive developmental disorders: Smooth pursuit eye movements? Journal of Neural Transmission, 111(12), 1617–1626.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kemner, C., van Ewijk, L., van Engeland, H., & Hooge, I. (2008). Brief report: Eye movements during visual search tasks indicate enhanced stimulus discriminability in subjects with PDD. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(3), 553–557.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lacson, F. C., Gonzalez, C., & Madhavan, P. (2008). Framing and context effects in visual search training. In Proceedings of the human factors and ergonomics society 52nd annual meeting (pp. 348-352). New York City: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.Google Scholar
  23. Madhavan, P., & Gonzalez, C. (2010). The relationship between stimulus-response mapping and the detection of novel stimuli in a simulated luggage screening task. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomic Science, 11(5), 461–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McCarley, J. S., Kramer, A. F., Wickens, C. D., Vidoni, E. D., & Boot, W. R. (2004). Visual skills in airport-security screening. American Psychological Society, 15(5), 302–306.Google Scholar
  25. Mottron, L., Dawson, M., Soulières, I., Hubert, B., & Burack, J. (2006). Enhanced perceptual functioning in autism: An update and eight principles of autistic perception. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 27–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nevo, I., & Erev, I. (2012). On surprise, change, and the effect of recent outcomes. Frontiers in Cognitive Science, 3(24).Google Scholar
  27. O’Riordan, M., Plaisted, K. C., Driver, J., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2001). Superior visual search in autism. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27(3), 719–730.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. O’Riordan, M. A. (2004). Superior visual search in adults with autism. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 8(3), 229–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. O’Riordan, M., & Plaisted, K. C. (2001). Enhanced discrimination in autism. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 54A(4), 961–979.Google Scholar
  30. Parasuraman, R. (1986). Vigilance, monitoring, and search. In K. Boff, L. Kaufman & J. Thomas (Eds.), Handbook of perception and human performance. Vol. 2: Cognitive processes and performance (pp. 1–43). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  31. Parasuraman, R., & Davies, D. R. (1976). Decision theory analysis of response latencies in vigilance. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2(4), 578–590.Google Scholar
  32. Plaisted, K., O’Riordan, M., & Baron-Cohen, S. (1998). Enhanced discrimination of novel, highly similar stimuli by adults with autism during a perceptual learning task. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39(5), 765–775.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Scherf, K. S., Luna, B., Kimchi, R., Minshew, N., & Behrmann, M. (2008). Missing the big picture: Impaired development of global shape processing in autism. Autism Research, 1(2), 114–129.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shah, A., & Frith, U. (1983). An islet of ability in autism: A research note. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 24(4), 613–620.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Simmons, D. R., Robertson, A. E., McKay, L. S., Toal, E., McAleer, P., & Pollick, F. E. (2009). Vision in autism spectrum disorders. Vision Research, 49(22), 2705–2739.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. South, M., Dana, J., White, S. E., & Crowley, M. J. (2010). Failure is not an option: Risk-taking is moderated by anxiety and also by cognitive ability in children and adolescents diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(1), 55–65.Google Scholar
  37. White, S. J., & Saldana, D. (2011). Performance of children with autism on the embedded figures test: A closer look at a popular task. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(11), 1565–1572. doi: 10.1007/s10803-011-1182-4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wolfe, J. M., Horowitz, T. S., & Kenner, N. M. (2005). Rare items often missed in visual searches: Errors in spotting key targets soar alarmingly if they appear only infrequently during screening. Nature, 435, 439–440.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wolfe, J. M., Horowitz, T. S., Van Wert, M. J., Kenner, N. M., Place, S. S., & Kibbi, N. (2007). Low target prevalence is a stubborn source of errors in visual search tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 136(4), 623–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cleotilde Gonzalez
    • 1
  • Jolie M. Martin
    • 4
  • Nancy J. Minshew
    • 2
  • Marlene Behrmann
    • 3
  1. 1.Dynamic Decision Making LaboratoryCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychiatry and NeurologyUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.School of Journalism and Mass CommunicationUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations