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Autism: Hard to Switch from Details to the Whole

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It has long been proposed that individuals with autism exhibit a superior processing of details at the expense of an impaired global processing. This theory has received some empirical support, but results are mixed. In this research we have studied local and global processing in ASD and Typically Developing children, with an adaptation of the Navon task, designed to measure congruency effects between local and global stimuli and switching cost between local and global tasks. ASD children showed preserved global processing; however, compared to Typically Developing children, they exhibited more facilitation from congruent local stimuli when they performed the global task. In addition, children with ASD had more switching cost than Typically Developing children only when they switched from the local to the global task, reflecting a specific difficulty to disengage from local stimuli. Together, results suggest that ASD is characterized by a tendency to process local details, they benefit from the processing of local stimuli at the expense of increasing cost to disengage from local stimuli when global processing is needed. Thus, this work demonstrates experimentally the advantages and disadvantages of the increased local processing in children with ASD.

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Correspondence to Pedro Macizo.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies were approved by the Ethical Committee on Human Research at the University of Granada (Spain) (Number issued by the Ethical Committee: 86/CEIH/2015), and in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Soriano, M.F., Ibáñez-Molina, A.J., Paredes, N. et al. Autism: Hard to Switch from Details to the Whole. J Abnorm Child Psychol 46, 1359–1371 (2018).

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