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Biological motion perception and the animate-inanimate distinction in typically-developing children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder


Biological motion perception and the animate-inanimate distinction in typically-developing children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Wright, Kristyn (2015) Biological motion perception and the animate-inanimate distinction in typically-developing children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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The present dissertation had two main objectives. The first objective was to investigate the development of naïve biological reasoning among typically-developing (TD) children and children with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (HF-ASD). Secondly, the potential link between biological motion understanding and the ability to form the animate-inanimate (A-I) distinction in both TD and HF-ASD children was evaluated. The first study examined the development of the A-I distinction among typically-developing 4- and 5- year-old children, and established that around 5 years of age children are able to form taxonomic A-I categories. Interestingly, when given the opportunity to form categories based on either taxonomic or thematic rules many children switched to categorizing thematically.
The second study examined another aspect of naïve biology, namely the ability to identify biological motion among TD children and children with HF-ASD. This study was the first to compare point-light and schematic presentations of biological motion. The point-light biological motion task required children to identify degraded motion of a human, a cat, a bicycle, and a truck. The schematic biological motion task tested whether children associate expansion-contraction motion with the animate category. Across both motion identification tasks children with HF-ASD were unimpaired in identifying biological motion.
The final study investigated the development of naïve biology among children with HF-ASD and also sought to determine whether motion perception is linked to the formation of A-I concepts. Children with HF-ASD were unimpaired in their ability to form broad A-I categories. In contrast to what has been found during the infancy period, TD preschool children did not prioritize motion cues when forming A-I categories. Rather, it is hypothesized that pre-school children rely on more global representations of naïve biology that include other non-obvious attributes of animates. Similarly, among children with HF-ASD no relationship between prioritization of attention to biological motion and children’s ability to form the A-I distinction was found. However, children with HF-ASD who engaged more in the active process of visually comparing biological and non-biological motion were better at forming A-I categories. Taken together, the results of these studies indicate that children with HF-ASD were unimpaired on multiple aspects of naïve biological reasoning, specifically, A-I taxonomic category formation and the identification of biological motion. Additionally, the results of this research also suggest that while TD infants rely on motion cues to guide the formation of A-I categories, school-aged children use more global representations of naïve biology that include other perceptual cues and features.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Psychology
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Wright, Kristyn
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:14 December 2015
Thesis Supervisor(s):Poulin-Dubois, Diane
Keywords:Autism Spectrum Disorder, biological motion, animate-inanimate distinction, categorization
ID Code:980883
Deposited On:09 Nov 2016 20:20
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:52


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