Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)3:00 PM
Background: Iconic memory is an individuals' ability to accurately remember a number of items after a brief (e.g., 100 msec.) visual exposure. Previous research indicates that when a large amount of information initially enters the visual system, it remains in raw visual form, or as an ‘icon'. During this time, information is coded and transferred to a more permanent store where it can be rehearsed and maintained in memory for longer periods of time (Sperling, 1960). Information processing capabilities such as these have been shown to be influenced by a variety of developmental and intellectual abilities. In particular, Baumeister and colleagues (1984) examined not only the memory capacity of individuals with an intellectual disability but also the rate of decay (i.e., how long the information stayed in short term visual storage). Results indicated that compared to typically developing adults, individuals with an intellectual disability recalled less information, and had a faster rate of decay. These authors suggest that quantitative and structural differences in iconic memory and information processing exist between typical and atypical individuals. Objectives: To date, previous research has primarily focused on the iconic memory capabilities of typically developing children and adults, as well as individuals with intellectual disabilities; however limited research has observed these abilities in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Thus, the current research is intended to examine children with ASD's iconic memory abilities and rate of information decay, as well as how other individual variables, such as level of cognitive functioning, influence children's visual memory. Methods: Twenty-nine typically developing (TD) children and children diagnosed with an ASD were briefly presented with a circular array of eight letters and asked to: 1) recall as many letters as they could (whole-report); or 2) recall the letter that was cued for recall (partial-report). Results: ASD and TD groups did not differ in the number of items accurately recalled on the whole- and partial-report trials nor the rate that information decayed from the iconic store. Additionally, results provided further evidence that information processing capabilities are influenced by a number of individual variables including, chronological age, language abilitiy, and stage of cognitive development. Conclusions: The present findings suggest that iconic memory may be an intact cognitive process in children with ASD. More specifically, compared to typically developing children, individuals with ASD: 1) are able to intake comparable quantities of briefly presented information; 2) have similar rates of information decay; and 3) require equivalent time to process information. The current research findings not only provide insight into the iconic memory capabilities of children with ASD, but also help to clarify the stage at which information processing may begin to deterioriate in individuals with ASD. The present study also contributes to identification of the intact and impaired facets of memory, which can potentially aid in developing both educational and treatment programs for children with ASD.