Brief Report: Faces Cause Less Distraction in Autism
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Individuals with autism have difficulties interpreting face cues that contribute to deficits of social communication. When faces need to be processed for meaning they fail to capture and hold the attention of individuals with autism. In the current study we illustrate that faces fail to capture attention in a typical manner even when they are non-functional to task completion. In a visual search task with a present butterfly target an irrelevant face distracter significantly slows performance of typical individuals. However, participants with autism (n = 28; mean 10 years 4 months) of comparable non-verbal ability are not distracted by the faces. Interestingly, there is a significant relationship between level of functioning on the autism spectrum and degree of face capture or distraction.
KeywordsFace perception Social attention Autism
This work was partly supported by funding from the Nuffield Foundation to the lead author. The authors would like to thank all the families and schools who participated in the research reported here. We would like to thank Dr. Stephen Langton for use of the butterfly target stimuli and guidance on work using this paradigm.
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