Poster C21, Sunday, March 26, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Social attention bias in Williams syndrome and Autism spectrum disorder
Kelsie Boulton1, Melanie Porter1,2; 1Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, 2ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
With their contrasting social profiles, Williams syndrome (WS) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) provide a unique opportunity to explore attention patterns towards social stimuli. While past studies have reported increased attention to positive social perceptual stimuli (happy faces) in WS, findings in ASD fail to show this effect, suggesting decreased attention to socially relevant information. Currently, no study has considered whether this increased attention in WS, and corresponding lack of attention in ASD, extends beyond perceptual cues. This study explored patterns of attention towards social stimuli in these populations when semantic instead of perceptual cues were provided. Adolescents and adults with WS and ASD, as well as neurotypical controls were trained to memorise biographical vignettes depicting trustworthy or untrustworthy characters, paired with neutral faces. Participants then completed a dot-probe task to look at potential biases in attention. Significant differences in attention patterns were observed, with WS individuals exhibiting an increased bias towards trustworthy faces, compared to both ASD and controls. This is similar to the findings of attention bias towards positive social perceptual stimuli reported in WS. Consistent with prior studies using perceptual stimuli, no bias in attention towards trustworthy or untrustworthy faces was observed in ASD or neurotypical participants. These results indicate that the bias in attention towards positive social stimuli in WS spans across both perceptual and conceptual cues. Theoretical and practical implications of this study, including potential links between attention patterns and aberrant amygdala reactivity in WS, are discussed.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions