Processing of Co-Reference in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Philippa L. Howard, Simon P. Liversedge, Valerie Benson

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    Accuracy for reading comprehension and inferencing tasks has previously been reported as reduced for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), relative to typically developing (TD) controls. In this study we used an eye movements and reading paradigm to examine whether this difference in performance accuracy is underpinned by differences in the inferential work required to compute a co-referential link. Participants read two sentences that contained a category noun (e.g., bird) that was preceded by and co-referred to an exemplar that was either typical (e.g., pigeon) or atypical (e.g., penguin). Both TD and ASD participants showed an effect of typicality for gaze duration upon the category noun, with longer times being observed when the exemplar was atypical, in comparison to typical. No group differences or interactions were detected for target processing, and verbal language proficiency was found to predict general reading and inferential skill. The only difference between groups was that individuals with ASD engaged in more re-reading than TD participants. These data suggest that readers with ASD do not differ in the efficiency with which they compute anaphoric links on-line during reading.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1968-1980
    JournalAutism Research
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2017


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