Marco Turi, David Charles Burr Is a corresponding author, Paola Binda
Pupillometry reveals perceptual differences that are tightly linked to autistic traits in typical adults
The pupil is primarily regulated by prevailing light levels but is also modulated by perceptual and attentional factors. We measured pupil-size in typical adult humans viewing a bistable-rotating cylinder, constructed so the luminance of the front surface changes with perceived direction of rotation. In some participants, pupil diameter oscillated in phase with the ambiguous perception, more dilated when the black surface was in front. Importantly, the magnitude of oscillation predicts autistic traits of participants, assessed by the Autism-Spectrum Quotient AQ. Further experiments suggest that these results are driven by differences in perceptual styles: high AQ participants focus on the front surface of the rotating cylinder, while those with low AQ distribute attention to both surfaces in a more global, holistic style. This is the first evidence that pupillometry reliably tracks inter-individual differences in perceptual styles; it does so quickly and objectively, without interfering with spontaneous perceptual strategies.