Typical perceptual organization in autism: Perceptual grouping and spatial distortion

Ravit Avraam, Nahal Binur, Bat Sheva Hadad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The extensive literature on global–local processing in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has recently shifted from arguing for a processing impairment among those with ASD to positing an attenuated preference for global processing. One suggestion is that the fast extraction of the global gist is less efficient in ASD, in contrast to the superior attention-driven processing of local elements. To examine this claim of attenuated global processing, the present study tested how perceptual grouping affected the global organization of visual scenes, specifically testing the claim of less mandatory, more optional global processing in ASD. Participants judged the distance between grouped and ungrouped elements in displays in which illusory distortions were inherent in configurations exemplifying the Gestalt principles of organization. Results from six experiments manipulating different Gestalt cues showed a consistent pattern, indicating that for individuals with ASD, as for typically developed (TD) individuals, grouping processes are organizational in nature, incorporating the grouping of related elements while parsing these from other unrelated elements. This parsing is accompanied by distortions in the spatial relationships perceived in the visual scene. ASD participants exhibited an overall larger tendency to overestimate the distances, but they also demonstrated typical perceptual organization processes that were robust and mandatory and, as in neurotypicals, affected the perception of the whole scene. Autism Res 2019.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAutism Research
StatePublished - 12 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • autism
  • gestalt principles
  • grouping
  • implicit
  • local global processing
  • perceptual organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • General Neuroscience


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