Visual-tactile selective attention in autism spectrum condition: An increased influence of visual distractors.

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2018 Jul 02;:

Authors: Poole D, Gowen E, Warren PA, Poliakoff E

We have previously observed that participants with autism spectrum condition (ASC) are more influenced by visual distractors during a tactile task compared with controls (Poole, Gowen, Warren, & Poliakoff, 2015). This finding suggests that changes in multisensory processing could underpin differences in sensory reactivity in ASC. Here we explore the cognitive mechanisms underlying this effect. Adults with ASC (n = 22) and matched neurotypical (NT) controls (n = 22) completed 3 tasks involving similar stimuli. In Experiment 1, we again showed that when participants with ASC were performing a tactile task they were distracted more by visual stimuli compared with NTs. In Experiment 2, however, no differences between the groups were observed on an alternative visual-tactile task (temporal order judgment) requiring attention to both the stimuli. That is, ASC performance was typical when the task did not require the visual stimuli to be suppressed. Furthermore, in Experiment 3 the effects of visual distractors were comparable between the groups when the tactile target was replaced with a visual target. When comparing performance across Experiments 1 and 3, NT participants were better able to suppress visual distractors when the target was tactile than when the target was visual (Experiment 1 vs. 3), but this crossmodal benefit was not observed in participants with ASC. The effects of visual distractors were comparable regardless of the target modality suggesting that the efficacy of visual-tactile selective attention may be reduced in ASC. (PsycINFO Database Record

PMID: 29963887 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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