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Keywords:

  • face processing;
  • object processing;
  • autism spectrum conditions;
  • inversion effect;
  • perceptual expertise;
  • configural processing;
  • local processing

Abstract

Previous research indicates that individuals with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) do not develop face expertise to the same extent as typical individuals. Yet it remains unclear whether this atypicality is specific to faces or related to more pervasive perceptual or cognitive deficits involved in the actual process of gaining expertise. To address this question, we examined the extent to which adults with ASC were capable of developing expertise with non-face objects. To become experts, all participants completed a 2-week training program with novel objects, known as Greebles. Level of expertise was assessed throughout training by measuring the ability to identify Greebles on an individual level. The perceptual strategies acquired as a result of expertise were measured through an inversion effect task completed before and after training, in which performance with upright Greebles and faces was compared to performance with inverted Greebles and faces. After expertise training, it was found that individuals in both the ASC and the typical group successfully achieved expertise and showed an enhanced Greeble inversion effect as a result of training. The development of an inversion effect with Greebles suggests that individuals with ASC may employ the same processing strategies as the typical group. Although exploratory, these findings have implications for understanding the nature of the face processing deficit in ASC as well as offering potential insights into face processing interventions for individuals with ASC. Autism Res2011, 4:297–301. © 2011 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.