Examining the Temporal Limits of Enhanced Visual Feature Detection in Children With Autism

Justin Kopec, Carl Hagmann, Nicole Shea, Alyssa Prawl, Daniel Batkin, Natalie Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The enhanced perceptual processing of visual features in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is supported by an abundance of evidence in the spatial domain, with less robust evidence regarding whether this extends to information presented across time. The current study aimed to replicate and extend previous work finding that children with an ASD demonstrated enhanced perceptual accuracy in detecting feature-based (but not categorically defined) targets in time, when these were presented quickly, at a stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) of 50 ms per item. Specifically, we extend the range of SOAs to examine the temporal boundaries of this enhanced accuracy and examine whether there is a relationship between ASD-related traits and detection accuracy on temporal visual search tasks. Individuals with autism perceived feature-based targets with statistically higher accuracy than their typically developing peers between SOAs of 39 and 65 ms and were numerically faster at all SOAs. No group differences were noted for category-based task accuracy. Our results also demonstrated that ASD-related traits measured by the autism spectrum quotient were positively correlated with accuracy on the feature-based task. Overall, results suggest that accurate visual perception of features (particularly color) is enhanced in children with ASD across time. Lay Summary: Our results suggest that children with autism are able to process visual features, such as color, more accurately than typically developing children, even when these are presented very rapidly. Accuracy was higher in children with higher levels of autism-related traits and symptoms. Our findings suggest that more accurate visual perception exists not only across space in children with autism, as much of the existing literature demonstrates, but also over time. Autism Res 2020, 13: 1561–1572.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1561-1572
Number of pages12
JournalAutism Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • color perception
  • temporal processing
  • visual perception
  • visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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