Not So Fast: Autistic traits and Anxious Apprehension in Real-World Visual Search Scenarios
Autistic individuals have shown superior performance in simple, albeit difficult, visual search tasks. We compared eye movements and behavioral markers across two visual search tasks based on real-world scenes in young adults. Context-aided search increased speed and accuracy for all groups. Autistic adults (n = 29) were on average consistently slower and less accurate than a non-anxious neurotypical comparison group (n = 48), but similar to neurotypical adults with elevated anxious apprehension (n = 26). Dimensional analyses suggest that autism traits, not anxious apprehension, are most associated with search efficiency of naturalistic stimuli suggesting that autistic individuals can effectively integrate contextual information to aid visual search, but that advantages in less visually complex tasks, reported in previous studies, may not transfer to situations involving real-world scenes.
KeywordsAutism Anxiety Visual search Eye tracking Contextual integration
We would like to thank Kevin G. Stephenson, David N. Top, Taylor Shuman, AnnaLisa Ward-Carr, and Laurel Peacock for help with recruitment and data collection.
MS, SGL, and RAL conceived of the study and participated in its design and coordination. SGL and NCCR performed the statistical analysis. MS, SGL, and NCCR participated in the interpretation of the data. NCCR drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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