The ASC group was significantly faster than the control group to detect changes to marginal interest items, with no group differences for changes to central interest items. Since there was a group difference in Detection Rates for changes of location, a further ANOVA was run without including the response latencies for location changes, and results still showed faster response latencies for the ASC group compared to the control group for detecting Marginal interest changes.
Mean response latencies and standard errors by both groups for each of the three categories of changes. The present findings reveal differences in change blindness in adults with ASC compared to controls. On the one hand, the ASC group showed faster detection of changes to items of marginal interest by adults with ASC compared to control adults, demonstrating reduced change blindness for changes to items within scenes that are typically of lower salience.
Together, the results demonstrate that people with autism attend to the world in a different way compared to controls, particularly towards items in scenes that are typically of less interest to others. Similar findings for reduced change blindness to marginal interest items in children and adolescents with ASC have been reported using images of scenes and short films [ 34 , 35 ] Fletcher-Watson et al. The enhanced sensitivity to changes may help explain the tantrums seen in children with ASC resulting from even small changes in their environment, with insistence on sameness being a central feature of ASC.
The resistance to change and repetitive behavior seen in ASC might be adaptive, to help reduce the excess sensory and perceptual processing and the resulting arousal in ASC from small changes in their surroundings. The finding of attenuated change blindness in ASC are also consistent with models and research showing enhanced perception of details alongside reduced processing of the context [ 19 — 26 ] Baron-Cohen et al. One recent study found children with ASC are faster on visual search tasks than typical children, and further showing to be as fast as typical adults [ 49 ] Hagmann et al.
The greater ability by those with ASC to detect certain changes in the present study is even more remarkable considering the task required all participants to intentionally look for a change between the images. The present results are in-line with other findings of reduced change blindness to marginal items in children and adolescents with ASC [ 34 , 35 ] Fletcher-Watson et al. An attentional focus with a sharper gradient around it was recently demonstrated in ASC compared to controls [ 15 ] Robertson et al.
An overly focused attention may enhance change detection by allocating attentional resources to discrete locations, which facilitates the processing of details within the focus and produces less interference from distracting items around it.
Greater attention to the marginal interest changes may also be due to a greater perceptual capacity compared to controls. Enhanced perceptual capacity has been demonstrated in ASC using response-competition paradigms and visual detection tasks [ 53 , 54 ] Remington et al. It is proposed that greater perceptual capacity is related to change blindness findings [ 55 ] Swettenham et al. When change blindness conditions involve a low load, with load referring to the perceptual requirements of a task, then group differences are less likely to be found according to this view because both groups have adequate perceptual resources available.
But under conditions of high load the ASC group demonstrates better ability to detect changes because they have more perceptual resources available to them than controls.
Since detecting changes to the central interest items is easier than those to marginal interest items, this view predicts that the groups should not differ in the ability to detect central interest changes and that the ASC group should perform better than controls in detecting the marginal interest changes, which was what was found in the present study.
The present findings challenge results from some previous studies of change blindness in ASC that have reported no differences between groups or even greater change blindness in ASC [ 29 — 33 ] Fletcher-Watson et al, ; Fletcher-Watson et al. Mixed results across studies may be due to differences in methodologies and in characteristics of the samples [ 33 , 34 ] Loth et al. Together, this may have increased task difficulty and EF demands compared to the traditional flicker paradigm and may have affected the results of that study, given the reported deficits of executive function in ASC [ 36 , 37 ] Ozonoff, ; Ozonoff et al.
A further change detection task [ 35 ] Fletcher-Watson et al.
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Interestingly, both the present study and the one by Fletcher-Watson et al. The present study also found the greatest groups differences in detecting changes with location, where an item moved from one part of the scene to another across image alternations.
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This finding must be interpreted with caution for two main reasons. The first is that the groups also showed differences in the number of detected changes for the location types of changes, with the ASC group detecting approximately one fewer change compared to the controls. The second reason is that the images were not equated for detection difficulty across the different categories.
However, it is still an interesting result for a couple of reasons. One reason is because changes of location often involve a wider area of the image compared to the other types of changes, as the change across images includes the original location of the scene where the image occurred along with the new location where the item appears in the changed image. So on the one hand, enhanced attention to detail may facilitate attention to changes of location in ASC because evidence of a change may appear across a wider area of the image compared to other types of changes, with some visual detail perhaps capturing the attention of those with ASC more readily than controls in most instances.
Another interesting reason is that many of the changes in location to marginal interest items occur in relation to items within the image that are of central interest e. Therefore, detection of some changes in location within images may involve attention to relations between the marginal and central interest items, or shifting attention between the central and marginal items as the images change.
Original Research ARTICLE
Since those with ASC are reported to have difficulties in shifting attention [ 56 , 57 ] Courchesne et al. This may help explain why the ASC group also had lower detection rates compared to the control group for changes to items of marginal interest that changed their location within the images, reflecting greater change blindness for detecting these types of marginal interest changes. This group difference reflected approximately 1 more change missed for the ASC group versus the controls for marginal interest changes of location, though there was no overall group difference in change detection in the study.
This small but significant effect of greater change blindness in detection rates for location changes may be due to the ASC group having more difficulty on certain trials involving a change of location to marginal interest items where shifting attention or widening their focus of attention was a useful strategy.
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Further research to disentangle the factors determining when those with ASC show reduced change blindness versus greater change blindness is needed. The longer latencies overall to detect marginal interest compared to central interest changes by both groups reveals a normal change blindness effect in ASC. This demonstrates that some degree of context or semantics about the information in the scenes was influencing attention processes in those with ASC.
If context had no effect, we would have expected to see equivalent response times across both central and marginal changes in ASC, as their attention would be drawn to the physical characteristics of the changes and not influenced by the semantic aspects of the scene. The types of change and the low-level visual characteristics were well-matched between central and marginal interest conditions, therefore some degree of top-down influence was likely affecting attention in ASC. However, the present results show that attention in ASC is drawn more towards items of less interest in the scenes than the controls, suggesting that context had less effect in those with ASC than controls and that there may be differences in the nature of top-down influence for those with ASC.
Thus, the current findings, whilst perceptual, may themselves be influenced by atypical social cognition in ASC [ 60 ] Baron-Cohen et al. A limitation of the present study is the use of longer latencies for displays compared to timings used in other studies of change blindness. Although having longer latencies might help simplify the task and reduce the cognitive demands for those with ASC, it might also affect how they view the images and detect the changes in a way to favor those with ASC. However, another change detection study reported similar findings to the present study using shorter display timings of the images [ 35 ] Fletcher-Watson et al.
Further research is needed comparing different methodologies to test the effects of these factors on change detection in ASC. Another limitation is that the present study included only male adults with ASC and participants generally had high IQ scores, so these results about reduced change blindness items of marginal interest may not generalize to other people with ASC.
Therefore, further research is needed to test whether these results would be seen for other groups on the autism spectrum, including females and lower-functioning individuals. Future studies should incorporate other measures of gaze during the task, such as eye-tracking, to investigate overt attention by people with and without ASC. We conclude that we have found evidence for reduced change blindness in autism which represents superior change detection for items within scenes that are typically less salient.
The present study is the first experimental evidence we are aware of to demonstrate reduced change blindness in adults with ASC for changes occurring in scenes of everyday life. The enhanced detection of changes in ASC occurred for items within scenes that are normally of less interest for people to attend towards and subsequently remember.
However, the ASC group also showed a small but significant reduction in detecting changes of location within the marginal interest condition compared to the controls.
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Together, these results are consistent with theories of enhanced perception of local details alongside reduced processing of the wider context in ASC, and with clinical and anecdotal reports that people with ASC show differences in attention towards small details in the environment that often appear insignificant to others. The authors declare no competing financial interests. Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Introduction Change blindness is a phenomenon where people fail to spot even large changes in a scene, when changes occur during a visual disruption [ 1 , 2 ] Rensink et al.
Procedure Participants were seated at a desk in a quiet room and viewed pictures on a 20 in. Statistical analysis There were two dependent measures: 1 Response Latencies to detect changes on trials where a change was successfully detected, and 2 Detection Rates, which represents the mean number of trials where the change was successfully detected. Detection rates The ASC group detected a mean of Download: PPT.
Fig 1. Response latencies for central and marginal interest changes. Fig 2. Discussion The present findings reveal differences in change blindness in adults with ASC compared to controls. Conclusions The present study is the first experimental evidence we are aware of to demonstrate reduced change blindness in adults with ASC for changes occurring in scenes of everyday life. Supporting information. S1 File. Study data.
This is the data that supports the results of the study. References 1. To see or not to see: The need for attention to perceive changes in scenes. Psychol Sci. View Article Google Scholar 2. Change blindness. Trends Cogn Sci. Rensink RA. Visual search for change: A probe into the nature of attentional processing. Vis Cogn. View Article Google Scholar 4. On the failure to detect changes in scenes across brief interruptions. View Article Google Scholar 5.
This could be measured by immediately presenting an obvious blue stimulus after the video and finding that you were faster or more accurate at detecting it. A substantial body of evidence suggests that unconscious processing of unattended stimuli provides a rich backdrop to conscious experience.
Web page of University of British Columbia psychologist Ron Rensink, including many videos and articles on change blindness. Web page of University of Illinois psychologist Dan Simons, describing his research on attention, including more great videos and demos. Web page of University College London psychologist, Nilli Lavie — including many freely downloadable research papers. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics Science Mind games. Psychology blogposts. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations.