Predictive Language Processing in Preschool Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Eye-Tracking Study

  • Peng Zhou
  • Likan Zhan
  • Huimin Ma


Sentence comprehension relies on the abilities to rapidly integrate different types of linguistic and non-linguistic information. The present study investigated whether Mandarin-speaking preschool children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are able to use verb information predictively to anticipate the upcoming linguistic input during real-time sentence comprehension. 26 five-year-olds with ASD, 25 typically developing (TD) five-year-olds and 24 TD four-year-olds were tested using the visual world eye-tracking paradigm. The results showed that the 5-year-olds with ASD, like their TD peers, exhibited verb-based anticipatory eye movements during real-time sentence comprehension. No difference was observed between the ASD and TD groups in the time course of their eye gaze patterns, indicating that Mandarin-speaking preschool children with ASD are able to use verb information as effectively and rapidly as TD peers to predict the upcoming linguistic input.


Predictive language processing Anticipatory eye movements Visual world paradigm Autism spectrum disorder Child sentence comprehension 



This work was supported by the National Social Science Foundation of China [16BYY076] to Peng Zhou. The authors would like to thank the children, the parents and the teachers at the Enqi Autism Platform and at the Taolifangyuan Kindergarten, Beijing, China, for their assistance and support in running the study. The authors are also grateful to the reviewer for the thoughtful comments and suggestions.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Child Cognition LabTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institute for Speech Pathology and the Brain ScienceBeijing Language and Culture UniversityBeijingChina

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