Spatial Transformations of Bodies and Objects in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

Previous research into autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has shown people with autism to be impaired at visual perspective taking. However it is still unclear to what extent the spatial mechanisms underlying this ability contribute to these difficulties. In the current experiment we examine spatial transformations in adults with ASD and typical adults. Participants performed egocentric transformations and mental rotation of bodies and cars. Results indicated that participants with ASD had general perceptual differences impacting on response times across tasks. However, they also showed more specific differences in the egocentric task suggesting particular difficulty with using the self as a reference frame. These findings suggest that impaired perspective taking could be grounded in difficulty with the spatial transformation used to imagine the self in someone else’s place.

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Acknowledgments

Amy Pearson and Lauren Marsh are funded by the University of Nottingham. Funding for this project was supplied by the University of Nottingham. We would like to thank all the schools, colleges and individuals who took part in this research.

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There are no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Amy Pearson.

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Pearson, A., Marsh, L., Hamilton, A. et al. Spatial Transformations of Bodies and Objects in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 44, 2277–2289 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2098-6

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Keywords

  • Spatial transformations
  • Bodies
  • Objects
  • Mental rotation
  • Egocentric
  • Autism