Investigating attention in young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using change blindness and eye tracking

Michal Hochhauser, Adi Aran, Ouriel Grynszpan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Social interaction at its core entails allocating attention to relevant stimuli. As such, the perception of change requires attention, but studies have suggested that the social impairment in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) occurs at the attentual level of “on-line” social cognition. Method: Forty-four young adults—22 with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 22 with typical development (TD)—participated in two experiments. The first used a change blindness (CB) paradigm where attention was investigated through the detection of changed items with central and marginal levels of interest when viewing images of everyday scenarios. Eye-tracking was used to compare response times, first fixations and total fixation time on changes. The second used social films with eye tracking of gaze fixations. Results: Participants with ASD were slower in response time and first fixation than were participants with TD. Participants with TD showed longer fixation on items with marginal (compared to central) levels of interest. The social-film experiment showed that participants with ASD were slower to orient their gazes towards the characters’ faces and looked at speaking characters for less time than did the group with TD. This result correlates with less use of mental verbs in their narratives and less time spent looking at marginal items in the CB experiment. Conclusions: Results suggest reduced processing speed in young adults with ASD, which is associated with enhanced processing of local details. Clinically, these results imply that teaching strategies (e.g., cognitive cues) to process social context efficiently could benefit individuals with ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101771
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Change blindness
  • Eye tracking
  • Social interaction
  • Young adults

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigating attention in young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using change blindness and eye tracking'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this