, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 421-431
Date: 12 Sep 2008

Do Faces Capture the Attention of Individuals with Williams Syndrome or Autism? Evidence from Tracking Eye Movements

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Abstract

The neuro-developmental disorders of Williams syndrome (WS) and autism can reveal key components of social cognition. Eye-tracking techniques were applied in two tasks exploring attention to pictures containing faces. Images were (i) scrambled pictures containing faces or (ii) pictures of scenes with embedded faces. Compared to individuals who were developing typically, participants with WS and autism showed atypicalities of gaze behaviour. Individuals with WS showed prolonged face gaze across tasks, relating to the typical WS social phenotype. Participants with autism exhibited reduced face gaze, linking to a lack of interest in socially relevant information. The findings are interpreted in terms of wider issues regarding socio-cognition and attention mechanisms.