Photos taken by autistic people and neurotypicals differ in intriguing ways

Posted on November 2, 2016

That’s exactly what a team of US researchers has done for a small study in Current Biology, and they found autistic people chose to take “strikingly different” kinds of photograph from neurotypical controls – for example, they took fewer photographs of people posing, facing the camera, and more repetitive photographs of objects. Tellingly, people with autism actually took more photographs of other people than did the controls, challenging the mistaken notion that all autistic people are unsociable and uninterested in others.

Shuo Wang at the California Institute of Technology and his colleagues recruited 16 participants diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (12 men; average age 30) and 21 neurotypical controls matched for age and IQ. They gave each of them a camera and invited them to “take photos of anything they wanted, such as objects, rooms, scenery, or people, and they could take as many photos as they wished”. There was no time limit but the researchers asked the participants to take their photos in three “conditions” – indoors and of people in the lab; indoors in the lab, but not of people; and outdoors.

Autistic people took more photos of people, and spent more time photographing people, than the controls. But their photos of people were different from those taken by the controls, in that they frequently depicted a person who was not posing or expressive, or looking at the camera – in fact they often took pictures of bodies without the face in the frame. Autistic people also took more photos from unusual angles, more repetitive and incomplete shots of objects, more pics of geometric shapes, and took more blurred, tilted and occluded photos. These differences were not due to group differences in photography experience.

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Category(s):Autism spectrum disorders

Source material from British Psychological Society


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