Auditory Local Bias and Reduced Global Interference in Autism

Cognition. 2014 Jun;131(3):367-72. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2014.02.006. Epub 2014 Mar 15.


Processing local elements of hierarchical patterns at a superior level and independently from an intact global influence is a well-established characteristic of autistic visual perception. However, whether this confirmed finding has an equivalent in the auditory modality is still unknown. To fill this gap, 18 autistics and 18 typical participants completed a melodic decision task where global and local level information can be congruent or incongruent. While focusing either on the global (melody) or local level (group of notes) of hierarchical auditory stimuli, participants have to decide whether the focused level is rising or falling. Autistics showed intact global processing, a superior performance when processing local elements and a reduced global-to-local interference compared to typical participants. These results are the first to demonstrate that autistic processing of auditory hierarchical stimuli closely parallels processing of visual hierarchical stimuli. When analyzing complex auditory information, autistic participants present a local bias and a more autonomous local processing, but not to the detriment of global processing.

Keywords: Auditory processing; Autism; Global; Local; Local bias; Perception.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Young Adult