Systemizing influences attentional processes during the Navon task: an fMRI study.


Systemizing ability exists on a spectrum, with a high systemizing style meaning proficiency in analysing the rules of a system, to predict how that system works. This study uses fMRI to investigate a spectrum of low to high systemizing, to assess whether individuals with a high systemizing style exhibit an attentional bias towards local details. This is the first study to test for the neural correlates of systemizing. Participants with a range of scores on the Systemizing Quotient (SQ) were given a version of the Navon task during fMRI, which elicits perceptual conflict between local and global levels of visual attention. SQ score was correlated with a focus on local detail in the behavioural study. During conditions eliciting perceptual conflict SQ score was associated with increased activation in the lateral prefrontal, parietal and extrastriate visual cortices. However, neural investigations did not imply a neural correlate of systemizing during local processing per se. Results are discussed in terms of a heightened ability to maintain an attentional set in those with a high systemizing cognitive style.