Global and local visual processing in autism: An objective assessment approach

Kritika Nayar, Angela C. Voyles, Lynne Kiorpes, Adriana Di Martino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined global and local visual processing in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) via a match-to-sample task using Kanizsa illusory contours (KIC). School-aged children with ASD (n = 28) and age-matched typically developing controls (n = 22; 7–13 years) performed a sequential match-to-sample between a solid shape (sample) and two illusory alternatives. We tracked eye gaze and behavioral performance in two task conditions: one with and one without local interference from background noise elements. While analyses revealed lower accuracy and longer reaction time in ASD in the condition with local interference only, eye tracking robustly captured ASD-related global atypicalities across both conditions. Specifically, relative to controls, children with ASD showed decreased fixations to KIC centers, indicating reduced global perception. Notably, they did not differ from controls in regard to fixations to local elements or touch response location. These results indicate impaired global perception in the absence of heightened local processing in ASD. They also underscore the utility of eye-tracking measures as objective indices of global/local visual processing strategies in ASD. Autism Res 2017, 10: 1392–1404.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1392-1404
Number of pages13
JournalAutism Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Kanizsa illusory contours
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • eye tracking
  • global visual processing
  • local visual processing
  • match-to-sample task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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