The Nonverbal Assessment of Human Actions as Predicted by Autistic Traits.
McDowell, Emily D.
- The human world is socially complex, and we have developed the ability to understand the actions of other people in order to function adaptively in such an environment. Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by deficits in social interaction (e.g., action recognition), and scholars believe that these impairments stem from a combination of differences in bottom-up factors (i.e., sensory represen... read moretations) and top-down factors (i.e., social experience). The goal of this study was to investigate the relationship between autistic traits in nonclinical adults and how these individuals process human actions in terms of static and dynamic features. We measured autistic traits using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and then tested action processing with complex sequences of martial arts and Indian dance actions. On each trial, participants categorized a static or dynamic display by choosing one of two response keys. Initially, the keys mapped onto the two action categories depicted in the displays. Then, to investigate the separate contributions of pose and action cues in the discrimination of human actions, the response assignments for the dynamic displays were switched. Individuals with higher degrees of autistic traits learned more about the local pose and action features of the displays, while individuals with fewer autistic traits tended to encode the global action categories. Our results suggest that autistic traits may influence humans’ representations of actions as well as their processing of static and dynamic features. Cognitive differences in action processing could have important diagnostic implications for autism spectrum disorder in the future.read less