Brief Report: Does Eye Contact Induce Contagious Yawning in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

  • Atsushi SenjuEmail author
  • Yukiko Kikuchi
  • Hironori Akechi
  • Toshikazu Hasegawa
  • Yoshikuni Tojo
  • Hiroo Osanai
Brief Report


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) reportedly fail to show contagious yawning, but the mechanism underlying the lack of contagious yawning is still unclear. The current study examined whether instructed fixation on the eyes modulates contagious yawning in ASD. Thirty-one children with ASD, as well as 31 age-matched typically developing (TD) children, observed video clips of either yawning or control mouth movements. Participants were instructed to fixate to the eyes of the face stimuli. Following instructed fixation on the eyes, both TD children and children with ASD yawned equally frequently in response to yawning stimuli. Current results suggest that contagious yawning could occur in ASD under an experimental condition in which they are instructed to fixate on the yawning eyes.


Yawning Contagious yawning Autism spectrum disorder Empathy Eye fixation Gaze 



We thank all the children and their parents for participation, Makiko Maeda for the preparation of the stimuli, and Katarina Begus and Sara Serbin for the help in video coding. This study was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI, B, 19330210) from Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, and A.S. was supported by an ESRC Research Fellowship (RES-063-27-0207).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Atsushi Senju
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yukiko Kikuchi
    • 2
  • Hironori Akechi
    • 2
  • Toshikazu Hasegawa
    • 2
  • Yoshikuni Tojo
    • 3
  • Hiroo Osanai
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for Brain and Cognitive DevelopmentBirkbeck, University of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Cognitive and Behavioral ScienceUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of EducationIbaraki UniversityIbarakiJapan
  4. 4.Musashino Higashi GakuenTokyoJapan

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