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. 2016 Oct 24;26(20):R909-R910.
doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.08.055.

Revealing the World of Autism Through the Lens of a Camera

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Free PMC article

Revealing the World of Autism Through the Lens of a Camera

Shuo Wang et al. Curr Biol. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show atypical attention to social stimuli [1] and gaze at faces [2] and complex images [3] in unusual ways. But all studies to date are limited by the experimenter's selected stimuli, which are generally photographs taken by people without autism. What might participants with ASD show us if they were the ones taking the photos? We gave participants a digital camera and analysed the photos they took: images taken by participants with ASD had unusual features and showed strikingly different ways of photographing other people.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Photographs taken by participants with ASD and controls
(A) Ratings from three ADOS-reliable professionals on their confidence that the photo was taken by a person with ASD (1 = ASD, 9 = control). Data are shown for all photos (ASD: 3.80 ± 1.43 (mean ± SD), controls: 4.33 ± 1.46; two-tailed t-test across photos: t(1668) = 7.32, P < 0.0001, effect size in Hedges’g (standardized mean difference): g = 0.36, permutation test with 1000 runs, P < 0.001), photos containing people (ASD: 3.79 ± 1.48, controls: 4.58 ± 1.55; t(702) = 6.44, P < 0.0001, g = 0.53, permutation P < 0.001), indoor photos (ASD: 3.05 ± 1.09, controls: 3.68 ± 1.26; t(483) = 5.91, P < 0.0001, g = 0.54, permutation P < 0.001), and outdoor photos (ASD: 4.69 ± 1.10, controls: 4.70 ± 1.35; t(479) = 0.029, P = 0.98, g = 0.0026, permutation P = 0.96). Ratings were not correlated with subject age, FSIQ, AQ, SRS-2 Adult Self Report, nor any ADOS-2 severity scores (all Ps > 0.05). Error bar denotes one SEM across photos. ***P < 0.001; n.s., not significant. (B) Compared to controls, participants with ASD had a higher percentage of photos containing other people (ASD: 36.1 ± 4.75%, controls: 31.8 ± 6.16%; two-tailed t-test across subjects: t(35) = 2.32, P = 0.027, g = 0.75, permutation P = 0.030), a lower percentage of portrait photos with front faces of other people (ASD: 26.6 ± 22.4%; controls: 45.4 ± 20.8%; t(35) = 2.63, P = 0.013, g = 0.86, permutation P = 0.004), and a lower percentage of photos in which people were expressive or posing (ASD: 13.3 ± 16.8%; controls: 28.9 ± 22.1%; t(35) = 2.34, P = 0.025, g = 0.76, permutation P = 0.026). Interestingly, when taking self-portraits, participants with ASD took a similar proportion of front-facing and expressive photos as controls did when taking photos of other people (front-facing: ASD: 56.4 ± 34.9%, controls: 45.4 ± 20.8%; t(32) = 1.16, P = 0.26; expressive: ASD: 31.9 ± 34.8%; controls: 28.9 ± 22.1%; t(32) = 0.31, P = 0.76). *P < 0.05. (C–E) Example photos. (C) Subjects in the portrait photos taken by participants with ASD did not pose or look at the camera and were not expressive. Photos from participants with ASD (D) often were partially occluded, and (E) had odd visual perspective.

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