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, 9 (1), 18376

Autistic-traits, Not Anxiety, Modulate Implicit Emotional Guidance of Attention in Neurotypical Adults


Autistic-traits, Not Anxiety, Modulate Implicit Emotional Guidance of Attention in Neurotypical Adults

Michael C W English et al. Sci Rep.


Although autistic and anxious traits are positively correlated, high levels of autistic traits are associated with poorer emotional guidance of attention (EGA) whilst high levels of anxious traits are associated with greater EGA. In order to better understand how these two trait dimensions influence EGA, we simultaneously examined the effects of anxiety and autistic traits in neurotypical adults on target identification in an attentional blink task. Analyses indicated that implicit EGA is attenuated in individuals with higher levels of autistic traits, but largely unaffected by variation in anxious traits. Our results suggest that anxiety plays a comparatively limited role in modulating implicit EGA and reinforces the importance of disentangling correlated individual differences when exploring the effects of personality, including emotional predisposition, on attention.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing interests.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Examples of images used in the RSVP (above) and an illustration of the sequence of images in a (1) lag-2, (2) lag-4 and (3) lag-8 trial (below). Trials began with a fixation cross and ended with prompts about which targets were seen. Catch trials (not illustrated) were identical to test trials except that one or both targets were replaced with a distractor (D) image.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Mean percentage of T2 responses correct given T1 correct, as a function of AQ group (Low and High), STAI group (Low and High), T2 Emotion (neutral and angry) and Lag (2, 4, and 8). Error bars represent within-subjects standard error of the mean. *p < 0.05.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Scatterplots illustrating correlations between autistic traits (top) or anxious traits (bottom) and emotion guided attention difference scores (angry trial accuracy subtract neutral trial accuracy) at each level of lag. Linear functions are fitted to each set of data along with 95% confidence intervals.

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