Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Stevenson, Ryan A.


Cognitive biases can involve the tendency to extract some sensory inputs while ignoring others. Cognitive biases impact perception, and subsequent processing decisions made on the basis of perception. Cognitive biases can disrupt accurate and efficient processing of social information, and may underlie core features of social communication difficulties. How cognitive biases contribute to atypical social processing associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits is unknown. We examined whether cognitive biases for emotional faces were related to scores from the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), and whether our measures of cognitive biases from a dot- probe paradigm with concurrent eye tracking were comparable. We did not find sufficient evidence to relate ASD traits and cognitive biases. We found limited eye movements made during the paradigm and no relationship between the two concurrent measures. We highlight outstanding questions in the investigation of ASD traits and cognitive biases through the dot- probe paradigm and eye tracking.

Summary for Lay Audience

Cognitive biases describe patterns of thinking that affect the decisions people make. We take shortcuts to think quickly about complex problems, and cognitive biases help us to do this. Most biases are stable tendencies that people will continue to display over time, and can affect how we pay attention to, remember, and interpret information. Cognitive biases can look like social and behavioral problems when people deal with information differently, and they may be linked to some of the social and behavioral problems often reported in autism. If there is a link between these two kinds of problems, people with more autism-like features would look at others’ faces differently than people without social and behavioral problems. We largely found people with more autism-like features did not show different cognitive biases when looking at others’ faces, but that factors of our design might have contributed to this being the case. We discuss ways to adapt the current design for future use.

Included in

Psychology Commons