Unimpaired Attentional Disengagement and Social Orienting in Children With Autism
Author(s)Fischer, Jason; Koldewyn, Kami; Jiang, Yuhong V.; Kanwisher, Nancy
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Visual attention is often hypothesized to play a causal role in the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Because attention shapes perception, learning, and social interaction, early deficits in attention could substantially affect the development of other perceptual and cognitive abilities. Here we test two key attentional phenomena thought to be disrupted in autism: attentional disengagement and social orienting. We find in a free-viewing paradigm that both phenomena are present in high-functioning children with ASD (n = 44, ages 5–12 years) and are identical in magnitude to those in age- and IQ-matched typical children (n = 40). Although these attentional processes may malfunction in other circumstances, our data indicate that high-functioning children with ASD do not suffer from across-the-board disruptions of either attentional disengagement or social orienting. Combined with mounting evidence that other attentional abilities are largely intact, it seems increasingly unlikely that disruptions of core attentional abilities lie at the root of ASD.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
Clinical Psychological Science
Sage Publications/Association for Psychological Science
Fischer, J., K. Koldewyn, Y. V. Jiang, and N. Kanwisher. “Unimpaired Attentional Disengagement and Social Orienting in Children With Autism.” Clinical Psychological Science 2, no. 2 (July 31, 2013): 214–223.
Final published version