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Title: Can training paradigms enhance global processing style in people with Asperger Syndrome? : a randomised experiment
Author: Beales, Graham
ISNI:       0000 0004 5371 3397
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2015
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Background and Aims: The Weak Central Coherence Theory (WCCT; Frith & Happé, 1994) has been developed to explain the local processing bias observed in people with autism. The two aims of the thesis are: 1) to investigate whether adults with Asperger syndrome have a local processing bias, and 2) to investigate whether a local processing bias can be modified for people with Asperger syndrome using a computerised training paradigm. Methodology: A 2 (Group: Asperger syndrome or typically developing) x 2 (Training: attentional control or intervention) x (2 (Time: 1 or 2) mixed experimental design x S) was used. Forty participants were randomised to the intervention or attention control condition. Both local and global processing style was assessed at pre- and post-test. A computerised global training paradigm was used to train “seeing the bigger picture”. Training and test materials utilised the Navon Figures, which are large letters (global format e.g., an “H”) made up of smaller letters (local format, e.g., smaller “F’s”). Results: No significant difference between processing styles were found between those with Asperger syndrome and typically developing adults for local processing, t (37) = .46, p =.65 (two tailed), or global processing, t (38) = .81, p = .43 (two tailed), when naming local or global letters that have a differing letter at both the local and global level. Considering the main effect of training on global processing, those who received training scored significantly higher than those in the attention control condition at post-test (F(3, 36) = 10.738, p = .002, 2 = 0.235), meaning that the training group took significantly longer to respond to the global stimuli, while those receiving the attention control condition Doctoral thesis: Can training paradigms enhance global processing style in Graham Beales people with Asperger syndrome? A randomised experiment xi responded significantly faster. Ignoring training, typically developing adults took significantly longer at post-test to respond to global stimuli than those with Asperger syndrome (F(3, 36) = 4.860, p = .034, 2 = 0.122). For local processing, no significant differences were found between those receiving training or those receiving attentional control conditions (F(3, 35) = 2.313, p = .138, 2 = 0.064), or between people with or without Asperger syndrome (F(3, 35) = .122, p = .729, 2 = 0.004). Conclusions: The results do not support the WCCT (Frith & Happé, 1994) hypothesis of a local processing bias in Asperger syndrome. Similarly, the findings challenge the notion that people with Asperger syndrome have impaired ability to integrate local elements into a coherent whole (global processing). In essence, people with Asperger syndrome could ‘‘see the bigger picture’’ and demonstrated being equipped to employ either a global or local orientated search strategy. Considering that the attention control condition led to significant improvements in response times, training paradigms that involve repeatedly switching between processing styles may be advantageous because they could be arguably more representative of everyday processing. However, it is possible that these results are due to superior emotional inhibition and sustained attention abilities that people with Asperger syndrome are proposed to possess (Gonzalez, Best, Healy, Bourne, & Kole, 2010). A further extension of the research could track changes in processing style, achieved via a computer paradigm, to associated changes in observed everyday atypical behaviour by individuals with Asperger syndrome.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available