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Do people with autism spectrum disorders show normal selection for attention? Evidence from change blindness.

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson, Dr Susan Leekham



People in the general population are typically very poor at detecting changes in pictures of complex scenes. The degree of this `change blindness', however, varies with the content of the scene: when an object is semantically important or contextually inappropriate, people may be more effective at detecting changes. Two experiments investigated change blindness in people with autism, who are known from previous research to be efficient in detecting features yet poor at processing stimuli for meaning and context. The first experiment measured the effect of semantic information while the second investigated the role of context in directing attention. In each task, participants detected the dissimilarity between pairs of images. Both groups showed a main effect of image type in both experimental tasks, showing that their attention was directed to semantically meaningful and contextually inappropriate items. However, the autistic group also showed a greater difficulty detecting changes to semantically marginal items in the first experiment. Conclusions point to a normal selection of items for attention in people with autism spectrum disorders, although this may be combined with difficulty switching or disengaging attention.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fletcher-Watson S, Leekam SR, Turner MA, Moxon L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Psychology

Year: 2006

Volume: 97

Issue: 4

Pages: 537-554

ISSN (print): 0007-1269

Publisher: The British Psychological Society


DOI: 10.1348/000712606X114057


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