Adults with Autism and Adults with Depression Show Similar Attentional Biases to Social-Affective Images

J Autism Dev Disord. 2020 Jul;50(7):2336-2347. doi: 10.1007/s10803-018-3627-5.


Individuals with ASD have increased rates of depression compared to the general population. Repetitive cognition is a core feature of ASD; in typically developing adults, repetitive cognition has been associated with attentional biases to negative emotional material and increased prospective depression risk. We compared adults with ASD to typically developing adults with depression and never-depressed controls, using a paired preference paradigm sensitive to affective biases in the context of repetitive cognition. Both clinical cohorts oriented faster to negative social-emotional material and spent less time overall on positive material, compared to healthy controls. Exploratory analyses within ASD revealed specific influences of repetitive behavior on patterns of affective bias. Findings help pinpoint susceptibilities in ASD that may confer increased risk for depression.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Eye-tracking; Mood; Negativity bias; Repetitive thinking; Rumination.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attentional Bias*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stereotyped Behavior