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The current study investigated the effects of autistic traits, gender, and difficulty level during emotional face and mental rotation tasks on accuracy, response time, and eye movement patterns. It was hypothesized that females would be more accurate and faster on the emotional face task whereas males would be more accurate and faster on the mental rotation task, consistent with research on gender differences. People with high autistic traits were predicted to perform better on mental rotation and worse on emotional face task while people with low autistic traits would follow the opposite pattern, consistent with research on the extreme male brain theory. It was hypothesized that as difficulty increased, accuracy would decrease and reaction time would increase. Finally, it was hypothesized that strategy would vary with increasing difficulty. One hundred and nine college students (54 males) viewed pairs of shapes and faces to determine if these images were the same or different while eye movements were recorded. Participants also completed the Autism-Spectrum Quotient to assess the number of autistic traits. Men were more accurate, but not faster, than women on mental rotation. However, there were no gender differences in accuracy or response time on emotional face task. As difficulty increased, participants became less accurate and responded slower. For emotional face task, males and females used different strategies. In mental rotation, as difficulty increased, the top and bottom corners were viewed equivalently. These variances in strategy could lead to new instructional techniques to improve performance on mental rotation and face processing.
Foggo, Mary B., "How Gender, Autistic Traits, and Difficulty Level Affect Performance and Strategy on Emotional Face Processing and Mental Rotation Tasks" (2016). Neuroscience Honors Papers. 5.