Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 1382–1396 | Cite as

Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Default Local Processing in Individuals with High Autistic Traits Does Not Come at the Expense of Global Attention

  • Ryan A. Stevenson
  • Sol Z. Sun
  • Naomi Hazlett
  • Jonathan S. Cant
  • Morgan D. Barense
  • Susanne Ferber
S.I. : Local vs. Global processing in Autism Spectrum Disorders


Atypical sensory perception is one of the most ubiquitous symptoms of autism, including a tendency towards a local-processing bias. We investigated whether local-processing biases were associated with global-processing impairments on a global/local attentional-scope paradigm in conjunction with a composite-face task. Behavioural results were related to individuals’ levels of autistic traits, specifically the Attention to Detail subscale of the Autism Quotient, and the Sensory Profile Questionnaire. Individuals showing high rates of Attention to Detail were more susceptible to global attentional-scope manipulations, suggesting that local-processing biases associated with Attention to Detail do not come at the cost of a global-processing deficit, but reflect a difference in default global versus local bias. This relationship operated at the attentional/perceptual level, but not response criterion.


Autism spectrum disorder Face recognition Sensory processing Composite-face effect Vision Attention Global processing Local processing 


Author contribution

R.S.—NSERC Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, CIHR Autism Research Training program; S.S.—NSERC CGS-M Scholarship; J.C.—NSERC Discovery Grant 435647-2013; M.B.—Scholar Award from the James S McDonnell Foundation, CIHR Grant MOP-115148; S.F.—NSERC Grant 216203-13, CIHR Grant 106436.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan A. Stevenson
    • 1
  • Sol Z. Sun
    • 1
    • 2
  • Naomi Hazlett
    • 1
  • Jonathan S. Cant
    • 2
  • Morgan D. Barense
    • 1
    • 3
  • Susanne Ferber
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Toronto ScarboroughTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Rotman Research Institute at BaycrestTorontoCanada

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