International Meeting for Autism Research: HOW Magic Changes Our Expectations about AUTISM

HOW Magic Changes Our Expectations about AUTISM

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
2:00 PM
S. R. Leekam , School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom
G. Kuhn , Psychology, Brunel University, Uxbridge, United Kingdom
A. Kourkoulou , School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales
Background: Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are less sensitive to social cues and have superior perception for non-social details, 

Objectives: We therefore predicted that they should be less susceptible to magic tricks, such as the ball illusion, in which the magician’s social cues of head movement and eye gaze play a crucial role in misdirecting people’s attention and expectations.

Methods: Participants were 15 high functioning ASD young adults 17-22 years and 16 age and IQ-matched comparison individuals. A magician demonstrated the trick in a videotaped presentation. Participants indicate where they had last seen the ball. Eyemovements were recorded. Results: Surprisingly, individuals with ASD were more susceptible to the illusion than the comparison group. Eye-tracking data indicated that subtle temporal delays in allocating attention might explain their heightened susceptibility. Additionally, although ASD individuals showed typical patterns of looking to the magician’s face and eyes, they were slower to launch their first saccade to the face, and had difficulty in fixating the fast moving observable ball when it was thrown for real.

Conclusions: Considered together, the results indicate difficulties in the rapid allocation of attention towards both people and moving objects.

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