Christy, Inge-Marie, Molly, Brian, Anders, Allison and Josh celebrate the year’s accomplishments!
Warm congratulations to Dasal Jashar, member of Deb Fein’s lab, who just received a Fulbright Research Scholar award. She’ll be investigating “ASD Knowledge in the Tibetan Community in Dharamsala, India.”
Ali’s paper will be coming out shortly in JADD. The paper reports on cognitive style in autism, and how this changes in individuals with optimal outcomes.
Individuals with high-functioning autism (HFA) have a cognitive style that privileges local over global or gestalt details. While not a core symptom of autism, individuals with HFA seem to reliably show this bias. Our lab has been studying a sample of children who have overcome their early ASD diagnoses, showing “optimal outcomes” (OO). This study characterizes performance by OO, HFA, and typically developing (TD) adolescents as they describe paintings under cognitive load. Analyses of detail focus in painting descriptions indicated that the HFA group displayed significantly more local focus than both OO and TD groups, while the OO and TD groups did not differ. We discuss implications for the centrality of detail focus to the autism diagnosis.
Fitch, A., Fein, D. A., & Eigsti, I. M. (in press). Detail and gestalt focus in individuals with optimal outcomes from Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
de Marchena, A., & Eigsti, I. M. (in press). The art of common ground: Emergence of a complex pragmatic language skill in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Child Language.
Deficits in pragmatic language are central to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here we investigate common ground, a pragmatic language skill in which speakers adjust the contents of their speech based on their interlocutor’s perceived knowledge, in adolescents with ASD and typical development (TD), using an experimental narrative paradigm. Consistent with prior research, TD participants produced shorter narrations when they shared knowledge with an interlocutor, an effect not observed in participants with ASD. This effect was unrelated to general skills such as IQ or receptive vocabulary. In ASD, the effect was correlated with age, and with symptom severity: younger and more severely affected participants showed little evidence of referential shortening. Qualitative data suggested that participants with ASD were aware of common ground, and communicated differently in its presence, though not in the expected way. We conclude that common ground requires significant cognitive resources, particularly for those with weaknesses in social-communication skills.
Eigsti, I. M., Rosset, D., Col Cozzari, G., Da Fonseca, D., & Deruelle, C. (in press). Effects of motor action on affective preferences in autism spectrum disorders: Different influences of embodiment. Developmental Science.
In the embodied cognition framework, our sensory, motor and emotional experiences are encoded along with sensorimotor cues from the context in which information was acquired. As such, representations retain an initial imprint of the manner in which information was acquired. The current study reports results indicating a lack of embodiment effects in ASD, and further, an association between embodiment differences and ASD symptomatology. The current results are consistent with an embodied account of ASD that goes beyond social experiences and could be driven by subtle deficits in sensorimotor coordination.