Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 158-167

Autistic Symptomatology, Face Processing Abilities, and Eye Fixation Patterns

  • Jennifer C. KirchnerAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institute for Human DevelopmentCluster of Excellence: “Languages of Emotion”, Freie Universität Berlin
  • , Alexander HatriAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institute for Human DevelopmentCluster of Excellence: “Languages of Emotion”, Freie Universität Berlin
  • , Hauke R. HeekerenAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institute for Human DevelopmentCluster of Excellence: “Languages of Emotion”, Freie Universität Berlin
  • , Isabel DziobekAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institute for Human DevelopmentCluster of Excellence: “Languages of Emotion”, Freie Universität Berlin Email author 

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Abstract

Deviant gaze behavior is a defining characteristic of autism. Its relevance as a pathophysiological mechanism, however, remains unknown. In the present study, we compared eye fixations of 20 adults with autism and 21 controls while they were engaged in taking the Multifaceted Empathy Test (MET). Additional measures of face emotion and identity recognition were also obtained. While both groups fixated more on the face and mouth in the emotion recognition than in the face identity condition of the MET, individuals with autism fixated less on the face across MET conditions. Correlation analysis revealed associations between fixation time on the eyes and face processing abilities. Our results suggest that eye fixation patterns are an important characteristic of the social phenotype of autism.

Keywords

Eye tracking Autism Face processing Autistic symptomatology Instruction Emotion recognition