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Enhanced cognitive processing by viewing snakes in children with autism spectrum disorder. A preliminary study

Abstract : Background: Prioritization of the processing of threatening stimuli induces deleterious effects on task performance. However, emotion evoked by viewing images of snakes exerts a facilitating effect upon making judgments of their color in neurotypical adults and schoolchildren. We attempted to confirm this in school and preschool children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Methods: Forty French children participated and corresponded to two age groups: a group of schoolchildren and a group of preschool children, each group including 10 children with typical development and 10 children with ASD. Each participant was exposed to 120 trials composed of 20 photographs of snakes and 20 photographs of flowers, each of which appeared 3 times (in red, green and blue). Participants were asked to indicate the color of each image as quickly as possible via key-press. A three-way analysis of variance test for reaction time (RT) considering image type (IMAGE), participant group (PARTICIPANT), and age (AGE) as main effects and its interaction terms was performed for each subject. Results: When the reaction time required to respond to presented stimuli was measured, schoolchildren tended to respond faster when stimuli were snake images than when stimuli were flower images whether the children had or did not have ASD. For the 5-to-6-year-old preschool participants, the difference between reaction time for the color-naming of snake images and flower images was ambiguous overall. Conclusions: There were possible odd color-specific effects in children with ASD when images were presented to the children in green. Implications of the findings are argued with respect to active avoidance or attraction as one of the behavioral characteristics commonly noted in children with ASD.
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Marine Grandgeorge, Alban Lemasson, Martine Hausberger, Hiroki Koda, Nobuo Masataka. Enhanced cognitive processing by viewing snakes in children with autism spectrum disorder. A preliminary study. BMC Psychology, BioMed Central, 2019, 7 (1), pp.74. ⟨10.1186/s40359-019-0352-6⟩. ⟨hal-02390499⟩

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