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Distinguishing reality from fantasy in adults with autism spectrum disorder: Evidence from eye movements and reading

Ferguson, Heather J., Black, J., Williams, David M. (2019) Distinguishing reality from fantasy in adults with autism spectrum disorder: Evidence from eye movements and reading. Journal of Memory and Language, 106 . pp. 95-107. ISSN 0749-596X. (doi:10.1016/j.jml.2019.03.001) (KAR id:72839)

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Understanding fictional events requires one to distinguish reality from fantasy, and thus engages high-level processes including executive functions and imagination, both of which are impaired in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We examined how adults with and without ASD make sense of reality-violating fantasy narratives by testing real-time understanding of counterfactuals. Participants were eye-tracked as they read narratives that depicted novel counterfactual scenarios that violate reality (e.g. “If margarine contained detergent, Mum could use margarine in her washing/baking”, Experiment 1), or counterfactual versions of known fictional worlds (e.g. “If Harry Potter had lost all his magic powers, he would use his broom to sweep/fly”, Experiment 2). Results revealed anomaly detection effects in the early moments of processing (immediately in Experiment 1, and from the post-critical region in Experiment 2), which were not modulated by group. We discuss these findings in relation to the constraints from real-world and fantasy contexts that compete to influence language comprehension, and identify a dissociation between ToM impairments and counterfactual processing abilities.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.jml.2019.03.001
Uncontrolled keywords: Fictional narratives, counterfactual thinking, autism, eye-tracking, reading, anomaly detection
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Heather Ferguson
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2019 20:07 UTC
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2020 04:11 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Ferguson, Heather J.:
Williams, David M.:
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