Do autistic children differ in language-mediated prediction?
Huettig, F., Voeten, C. C., Pascual, E., Liang, J., & Hintz, F.
Do autistic children differ in language-mediated prediction? Cognition, 239
: 105571. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105571.
Prediction appears to be an important characteristic of the human mind. It has also been suggested that prediction is a core difference of autistic children. Past research exploring language-mediated anticipatory eye movements in autistic children, however, has been somewhat contradictory, with some studies finding normal anticipatory processing in autistic children with low levels of autistic traits but others observing weaker prediction effects in autistic children with less receptive language skills. Here we investigated language-mediated anticipatory eye movements in young children who differed in the severity of their level of autistic traits and were in professional institutional care in Hangzhou, China. We chose the same spoken sentences (translated into Mandarin Chinese) and visual stimuli as a previous study which observed robust prediction effects in young children (Mani & Huettig, 2012) and included a control group of typically-developing children. Typically developing but not autistic children showed robust prediction effects. Most interestingly, autistic children with lower communication, motor, and (adaptive) behavior scores exhibited both less predictive and non-predictive visual attention behavior. Our results raise the possibility that differences in language-mediated anticipatory eye movements in autistic children with higher levels of autistic traits may be differences in visual attention in disguise, a hypothesis that needs further investigation.