No association between autistic traits and contextual influences on eye-movements during reading

Nathan Caruana, Jon Brock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Individuals with autism spectrum disorders are claimed to show a local cognitive bias, termed "weak central coherence", which manifests in a reduced influence of contextual information on linguistic processing. Here, we investigated whether this bias might also be demonstrated by individuals who exhibit sub-clinical levels of autistic traits, as has been found for other aspects of autistic cognition. The eye-movements of 71 university students were monitored as they completed a reading comprehension task. Consistent with previous studies, participants made shorter fixations on words that were highly predicted on the basis of preceding sentence context. However, contrary to the weak central coherence account, this effect was not reduced amongst individuals with high levels of autistic traits, as measured by the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). Further exploratory analyses revealed that participants with high AQ scores fixated longer on words that resolved the meaning of an earlier homograph. However, this was only the case for sentences where the two potential meanings of the homograph result in different pronunciations. The results provide tentative evidence for differences in reading style that are associated with autistic traits, but fail to support the notion of weak central coherence extending into the non-autistic population.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere466
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Autism
  • Autistic traits
  • Central coherence
  • Eye-movements
  • Reading
  • Reading comprehension
  • Semantic processing
  • Sentence context

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