Perceptual Capacity greater in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

In a new study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, researchers led by Dr. Anna M. Remington have found that under higher levels of load, the perceptual capacity of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders is more as compared to typical adults. This implies that individuals suffering from autism are able to better process information even with faster than normal presentations. This capacity is higher than in people who do not suffer from autism.

Professor Nilli Lavie, a co-researcher in the study, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL, attributes this higher perceptual capacity as the reason behind the ability of people suffering from autism to focus on certain tasks while being sensitive to the distraction caused by irrelevant stimuli. Individuals with autism are socially aloof but show an uncanny ability to focus on some specific tasks. However, they are easily distracted by stimuli like flashing lights, etc. which are ignored by other individuals without any effort. The recent study shows that individuals with autism are better at processing information from a scene. However, they also process some information which may not be important.

In the present study, letters were flashed on the screen. Apart from the letters, a grey shape also appeared occasionally on the screen to distract the participants. Sixteen typical adults were pitted against sixteen individuals with autism spectrum disorders. It was seen that when the letters flashed on the screen were small in number, all the participants were able to recollect them equally well. However, as the letters being flashed on screen increased, individuals with autism spectrum disorders outperformed the other adults. The results show that as the task becomes more challenging, the people with autism spectrum disorders are better adept to process the information more rapidly. They have an information processing advantage compared to other people.
Date: 
Thursday, March 22, 2012