Date of Award

August 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Deborah Hannula

Committee Members

Christine Larson, Hanjoo Lee, Marjorie Solomon, J. Daniel Ragland


ASD, Autism, Episodic memory, Eye tracking, Relational memory


Recent work has challenged past findings that documented relational memory impairments in autism. Previous studies have often relied solely on explicit behavioral responses to assess relational memory integrity, but successful performance on behavioral tasks may rely on other cognitive abilities (e.g., executive functioning) that are impaired in some autistic individuals. Eye-tracking tasks do not require explicit behavioral responses, and, further, eye movements provide an indirect measure of memory. The current study examined whether memory-specific viewing patterns toward scenes differ between autistic and non-autistic individuals. Using a long-term memory paradigm that equated for complexity between item and relational memory tasks, participants studied a series of scenes. Following the initial study phase, scenes were re-presented, accompanied by an orienting question that directed participants to attend to either features of an item (i.e., in the item condition) or spatial relationships between items (i.e., in the relational condition) that might be subsequently modified during test. At test, participants viewed scenes that were unchanged (i.e., repeated from study), scenes that underwent an “item” modification (an exemplar switch) or a “relational” modification (a location switch), and scenes that were never seen before. Eye movements were recorded throughout. There were no significant group differences in explicit recognition accuracy or the expression of eye-movement-based memory effects when scenes were intact, modified, or new. However, differences in subjective memory confidence, the associations between study- and test-related memory indices, and the impact of external sample characteristics on retrieval-related eye movements suggest subtle dissociations in the quality of memory representations and/or in the relationships between subcomponents of memory in autism.