Bringing methods into focus: how task demand and scene complexity drives attention allocation in autism

Karri Gillespie-Smith, Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon, Carrie Ballantyne, Peter Hancock

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster

Abstract

Background
It has been proposed that atypical gaze behaviour is only observed when task demands are high or when scenes are sufficiently complex (Ames & Fletcher-Watson 2010). The current line of enquiry aims to explore this by manipulating complexity within scenes while recording gaze behaviour, while asking children to complete a task (task-driven attention) or look at the scenes only (spontaneous attention). It is predicted that groups with ASD will look less at faces across all complexity levels despite task demands.

Method
Using eye-tracking methodology, one group with Autism (Group 1; n = 20; mean age = 12 years 3 months) looked at scenes of varying complexity followed by a related memory task. Another group with Autism (Group 2; n=19; mean age = 11 years 4 months) looked at the same scenes but did not complete a task.

Results
Group 1 (task condition), showed typical gaze behaviour and looked longer at the faces (m = 899 ms) compared to objects (m = 423 ms) across the scene complexity levels F (1, 76) = 22.395, p <= .001. Group 2 (spontaneous condition) showed more atypical gaze behaviour and looked less at the
faces (m = 742 ms) compared to objects (m = 1114 ms), F(2, 104.50) = 4.14, p < .05, across complexity.

Conclusion
The results show that regardless of social and object complexity, task driven gaze behaviour is more typical than spontaneous gaze behaviour in groups with Autism. Discussion focuses on implications of this on existing literature and wider social functioning in Autism.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2017
Event17th Annual Seattle Club Conference on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities - Durham University, Durham
Duration: 18 Dec 201719 Dec 2017
http://www.seattleclubconference.org/conference_2017.html

Conference

Conference17th Annual Seattle Club Conference on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Abbreviated titleSeattle Club 2017
CityDurham
Period18/12/1719/12/17
Internet address

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