Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 38, Issue 7, pp 1371–1381 | Cite as

Scan Path Differences and Similarities During Emotion Perception in those With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • M. D. RutherfordEmail author
  • Ashley M. Towns
Original Paper


Typical adults use predictable scan patterns while observing faces. Some research suggests that people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) instead attend to eyes less, and perhaps to the mouth more. The current experiment was designed as a direct measure of scan paths that people with and without ASD use when identifying simple and complex emotions. Participants saw photos of emotions and chose emotion labels. Scan paths were measured via infrared corneal reflectance. Both groups looked significantly longer at eyes than mouth, and neither overall looking time at eyes nor first fixations distinguished the groups. These results are contrary to suggestions that those with ASD attend preferentially to the mouth and avoid the eyes. Furthermore, there was no interaction between group and area of the face: the ratio of attention between eyes and mouth did not differ between the ASD and control groups. However, those with ASD looked at the eyes less than the control group when viewing complex emotions.


Emotion perception Face perception Scan path Eye tracking 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and BehaviourMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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