Can Performance in Navon Letters among People with Autism be Affected by Saliency? Reexamination of the Literature

Abstract

Findings from Navon letters paradigm studies among individuals with autism spectrum disorder are inconsistent. The different results are often being interpreted in terms of “local bias” and/or “global weakness,” according to the predictions of leading theories such as the “weak central coherence” or the “enhanced perceptual functioning.” We suggest that some of the inconsistencies may be a result of differences between these studies in the stimuli’s physical characteristics and/or the task’s attentional demands which are known to affect the relative saliency of the global and local levels. In this paper, we systematically discuss the parameters that may affect global and local perception in autism and suggest future experimental designs and potential clinical implications of the paradigm.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Letters and numerals are well distinguished, familiar, and automatically identified by participants. However, distinguishing between certain geometrical shapes (e.g., circles and ellipses) or the direction of global vs. local arrows, may involve other perceptual and/or attentional processing. Thus, studies that used shapes were not included in the current investigation.

  2. 2.

    Several studies (Rinehart et al. 2000, 2001; Katagiri et al. 2013) distinguished between “high-functioning autism” and “Asperger disorder” that existed in the former version of the DSM-IV (APA 2000). We report these studies as is with no further discussion as we adopt the recent development that was introduced in the DSM-5 (APA 2013).

  3. 3.

    Kimchi (1992) turns our attention to the fact that despite of these findings, there are also studies that have used relatively long exposure durations and reported global advantage and global interference.

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Acknowledgements

This study funded by grant no.1595/11 of the Israel Science Foundation to LS. This study was prepared from doctoral dissertation of AB who conceived of the study, designed and performed it, and drafted the manuscript; CM participated in the interpretation and conceptualization of the data; LS conceived of the study, and participated in its design, interpretation and conceptualization of the data and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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This study was funded by grant no. 1595/11.

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Correspondence to Ayelet Baisa.

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Baisa, A., Mevorach, C. & Shalev, L. Can Performance in Navon Letters among People with Autism be Affected by Saliency? Reexamination of the Literature. Rev J Autism Dev Disord 6, 1–12 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40489-018-0150-8

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum
  • Navon letters
  • Global perception
  • Local perception