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Title: The social cognition and attentional preferences of autistic adults
Author: Moore, David John
ISNI:       0000 0004 2699 6723
Awarding Body: Sheffield Hallam University
Current Institution: Sheffield Hallam University
Date of Award: 2010
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Attentional bias to faces can be seen from 9 minutes old in typical development (TD; Goren Sarty & Wu, 1975) and this is thought to underlie face processing expertise observed in adults (Johnson & Morton, 1991). In contrast people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) have deficits in orienting towards social information (e.g. Dawson et al., 2004). Novel methods, the Visual Dot Probe (VDP; Mathews, MacLeod & Tata, 1986) to measure automatic bias (at both sub and supra threshold presentation times) and Face-in-the-Crowd (FITC) to measure conscious bias (Hansen & Hansen, 1988), will be used to examine attentional bias for face stimuli in ASD and control participants. Experiments 1 and 3 examined attentional bias for faces (including emotional faces; Study Three) compared to non-face stimuli using the VDP task. In Study One neither group showed a sub-threshold bias. However at supra threshold durations the TD group had a bias for faces that was absent in the ASD group. In Study Three the TD group had a sub-threshold bias for neutral faces compared to non-face stimuli. However the ASD group showed no bias. Neither group had a supra-threshold bias. Experiments 2 and 4 used the FITC task to examine participants' attentional bias for faces (including emotional faces; Study Four) compared to non-face stimuli. In Study Two both groups showed an attentional bias for faces compared to non-face stimuli. However in Study Four neither group showed a bias for faces. Previous research has shown the social presentation of ASD to be heterogeneous (Wing & Attwood, 1987) and in the normative literature findings using the VDP and FITC tasks relate to personality variables (e.g. Mogg & Bradley, 1999a; b). In Chapter 7 the consistency of bias across tasks was relatively poor. In the ASD group bias for faces was found to relate to increased anxiety, reduced ASD severity, and increased intelligence. Psychometric variables did not to predict bias for faces in controls. In conclusion the control group show a bias for faces and there are some indications that the ASD group shows a face bias when under conscious control however this does not appear to be an automatic process. This suggests a potential cognitive model of ASD reliant on automatic social inattention as a key variable in ASD.
Supervisor: Reidy, Lisa ; Francis, John ; Garner, Iain Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available