Current Studies

Social Acuity Game for ASD kids (SAGA)

Some researchers estimate that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) spend more than 60% of their free time using screen-based media1. Because of the interest by children with ASD in video games, we are attempting to make use of video game format to create an intervention that improves the social skills of children on the spectrum. We plan to use rigorous research methods to investigate whether the intervention has the hope for positive social outcomes. 

With this in mind, the Yonas Lab team at The Institute of Child Development, together with computer science Professor Peter Willemsen's team at UMN – Duluth, are working on the development of an iPad based game App. Our goal is to help improving the social functioning of children on the spectrum. The games focus on the ability to perceive the psychological state of others and act accordingly. More specifically, we are working on games with the purpose of fostering emotional understanding of high functioning kids with ASD. In addition, the low cost of this type of intervention has the potential of improving the lives of children from low SES families.

1 Mazurek, Micah O., et al. "Prevalence and correlates of screen-based media use among youths with autism spectrum disorders." Journal of autism and developmental disorders 42.8 (2012): 1757-1767.

Depth by shading

One of the main goals of the Yonas Lab is to understand the ontogeny1 and phylogeny2 of human visual perception. More specifically, how is that we are so good at interacting with the reality we call the visual world3, and why is seldom the case that visual cues lead us to false perceptions, as in the case of visual illusions (e.g. wire cube illusion, Ames window, Einstein face illusion).

In order to explore these questions we are studying infants’ understanding of the visual world by the use of the depth pictorial cue known as shading.

Experimental evidence suggest that when images are lit from above adults tend to perceive convexity4. On the other hand, when images are lit from below adults tend to perceive the images as concave. Why would this be the case? Multiple explanations have been given to try to explain this visual phenomena but we believe the answer to this question lies in the environmental visual cues and design of the human brain. Therefore, we are using preferential looking methods in order to gain a better understanding of the development of the perceptual visual world in infants.

1 Yonas, A., & Granrud, C. E. (1985). Development of visual space perception in young infants. Neonate cognition: Beyond the blooming, buzzing confusion, 45-67.

2 Gunderson, V. M., Yonas, A., Sargent, P. L., & Grant-Webster, K. S. (1993). Infant macaque monkeys respond to pictorial depth. Psychological Science,4(2), 93-98.

3 Gibson, J. J. (1950). The perception of the visual world.

4 Shirai, N., Kanazawa, S., & Yamaguchi, M. K. (2005). Young infants’ sensitivity to shading stimuli with radial motion1. Japanese Psychological Research, 47(4), 286-291.

Yoked Prism as enhancing tools for kids diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder visual exploration.

By the use of state of the art technologies in eye-tracking and in collaboration with behavioral optometrist Melvin Kapplan, O.D. the Yonas Lab is exploring the effects of Yoked Prisms on the visual exploration of kids diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Currently we are recruiting kids diagnosed with ASD as well as normally developed children ages 8-14 years old.