A social problem-solving approach to attention shifting in working memory of children with autism spectrum disorder

Xiaoming Liu, Fordham University


Existing literature has found that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit impairments in attention shifting in working memory (WM). Such impairments in ASD likely contribute to the profound social disabilities, poor or absent joint attention abilities, narrowed interests and repetitive behaviors. This study developed a ScioCOg (SCOT) trainer application to examine the attention shifting in WM using social solving problems in children with and without ASD. The SCOT app was built to serve as a research-based and educational application. It converts a widely used task-switch paradigm based on Oberauer’s three-commponent model, into a touchscreen-based app to examine attention shifting in children with ASD. This study also evaluated the effectiveness of the SCOT app in improving attention shifting in WM and social problem-solving over two weeks. A large body of research reported over-selectivity, referring to a limited ability to use information from incoming stimuli and only attend to one selected feature in individuals with ASD. It thus contributes to difficulties on flexible attention switching. After controlling for the contributions of age and intelligence, the results did not support the over-selectivity in ASD, because children with ASD were not impaired in shifting their attention in WM using social stimuli, compared to typically developing (TD) children. Both groups spent longer time on attention switching when switching between three social stimuli than did between two social stimuli. Both groups demonstrated improved attention shifting skills over the two weeks. The results also indicated that children with ASD had difficulty solving social problems independently. They spent a longer time solving the animated social problems than did TD children. However, children with ASD significantly improved their performance on social problem-solving using the SCOT app. They spent less time solving new problems in the second week than they did in the first week. This improvement was not seen among TD children. Thus, this finding indicated that children with ASD, not TD children, benefit from the SCOT app in learning how to solve social problems.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Developmental psychology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Liu, Xiaoming, "A social problem-solving approach to attention shifting in working memory of children with autism spectrum disorder" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10013413.