Gaze and arrow cueing of attention reveals individual differences along the autism spectrum as a function of target context

Andrew P. Bayliss, S.P. Tipper

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Observing averted gaze results in a reflexive shift of attention to the gazed-at location. In two experiments, participants scoring high and low on the Autism-Spectrum Quotient questionnaire (AQ; Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Skinner, Martin, & Clubley, 2001) observed arrow and gaze cues to investigate cueing effect magnitude as a function of the context in which peripheral targets could appear. While identical cueing effects were found with gaze and arrow cues, the more striking results concerned target stimuli. In Experiment 1, targets could appear on a peripheral face, or on scrambled face parts. Overall, greater cueing effects were found when the target appeared on a face. However, this face bias was only observed in participants with low AQ scores, whereas high AQ scorers oriented more to scrambled features. Experiment 2 found equal cueing to targets appearing on tools, as compared with tool parts. However, individual differences were again observed, where low AQ scorers showed larger cueing towards tools, while high scorers oriented more to scrambled parts, as in Experiment 1. These results support the idea that low AQ individuals orient strongly to objects attended by others. However, since the same results were found for arrow cues, this effect may generalize to all central cues to attention. High AQ scorers possessing many more autistic-like traits tended to orient more to scrambled shapes, perhaps reflecting a bias for orienting to local details.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-114
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2005

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