Impaired global, and compensatory local, biological motion processing in people with high levels of autistic traits

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Abstract

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are hypothesized to have poor high-level processing but superior low-level processing, causing impaired social recognition, and a focus on non-social stimulus contingencies. Biological motion perception provides an ideal domain to investigate exactly how ASD modulates the interaction between low and high-level processing, because it involves multiple processing stages, and carries many important social cues. We investigated individual differences among typically developing observers in biological motion processing, and whether such individual differences associate with the number of autistic traits. In Experiment 1, we found that individuals with fewer autistic traits were automatically and involuntarily attracted to global biological motion information, whereas individuals with more autistic traits did not show this pre-attentional distraction. We employed an action adaptation paradigm in the second study to show that individuals with more autistic traits were able to compensate for deficits in global processing with an increased involvement in local processing. Our findings can be interpreted within a predictive coding framework, which characterizes the functional relationship between local and global processing stages, and explains how these stages contribute to the perceptual difficulties associated with ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number209
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume4
Issue numberAPR
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

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