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Attention orienting in response to non-conscious hierarchical arrows: individuals with higher autistic traits differ in their global/local bias

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posted on 2022-03-29, 03:47 authored by Robin LaycockRobin Laycock, Daniel Chan, Sheila CrewtherSheila Crewther
One aspect of the social communication impairments that characterize autism spectrum disorder (ASD) include reduced use of often subtle non-verbal social cues. People with ASD, and those with self-reported sub-threshold autistic traits, also show impairments in rapid visual processing of stimuli unrelated to social or emotional properties. Hence, this study sought to investigate whether perceptually non-conscious visual processing is related to autistic traits. A neurotypical sample of thirty young adults completed the Subthreshold Autism Trait Questionnaire and a Posner-like attention cueing task. Continuous Flash Suppression (CFS) was employed to render incongruous hierarchical arrow cues perceptually invisible prior to consciously presented targets. This was achieved via a 10 Hz masking stimulus presented to the dominant eye that suppressed information presented to the non-dominant eye. Non-conscious arrows consisted of local arrow elements pointing in one direction, and forming a global arrow shape pointing in the opposite direction. On each trial, the cue provided either a valid or invalid cue for the spatial location of the subsequent target, depending on which level (global or local) received privileged attention. A significant autism-trait group by global cue validity interaction indicated a difference in the extent of non-conscious local/global cueing between groups. Simple effect analyses revealed that whilst participants with lower autistic traits showed a global arrow cueing effect, those with higher autistic traits demonstrated a small local arrow cueing effect. These results suggest that non-conscious processing biases in local/global attention may be related to individual differences in autistic traits.


Publication Date



Frontiers in Psychology



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Frontiers Research Foundation



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Copyright © 2017 Laycock, Chan and Crewther. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.