Next time you lose your car keys and enlist the family to help you search, try a little experiment. After your spouse searches an area, go and look in the same place. It will likely feel strange, even irritating to both of you - and that’s because you may be fighting an ancient, hard-wired, human behaviour pattern. The behavioural phenomenon is called ‘inhibition of return’ and for our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors it made a lot of sense.
As Dr. Tim Welsh explains, “This behaviour likely developed through evolution to increase search efficiency. Returning to search an area that someone else has already searched doesn’t make a lot of sense from a survival point of view because they’ve either found the food and eaten it, or there’s no food there.” Inhibition of return has been well-documented over the years, but Welsh is interested in measuring exactly how the actions of another individual affect our own, and whether people with autism react differently than the rest of the population. To test this Welsh, a professor in the Faculties of Kinesiology and Medicine, came up with a unique and elegant experiment that uses some cutting-edge technology. In Welsh’s set-up, two subjects sit across from each other wearing, liquid crystal goggles. They are told to reach for a lighted target in front of them.
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