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Brief Report: Patterns of Eye Movements in Face to Face Conversation are Associated with Autistic Traits: Evidence from a Student Sample

Abstract

The current study investigated whether the amount of autistic traits shown by an individual is associated with viewing behaviour during a face-to-face interaction. The eye movements of 36 neurotypical university students were recorded using a mobile eye-tracking device. High amounts of autistic traits were neither associated with reduced looking to the social partner overall, nor with reduced looking to the face. However, individuals who were high in autistic traits exhibited reduced visual exploration during the face-to-face interaction overall, as demonstrated by shorter and less frequent saccades. Visual exploration was not related to social anxiety. This study suggests that there are systematic individual differences in visual exploration during social interactions and these are related to amount of autistic traits.

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Acknowledgments

M.F. was supported by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship.

Author Contributions

Both authors conceived of and designed the study. AV collected, organised and analysed the data. Both authors interpreted the data, wrote the manuscript and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Megan Freeth.

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Vabalas, A., Freeth, M. Brief Report: Patterns of Eye Movements in Face to Face Conversation are Associated with Autistic Traits: Evidence from a Student Sample. J Autism Dev Disord 46, 305–314 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-015-2546-y

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Keywords

  • Social attention
  • Mobile eye-tracking
  • Eye movements
  • Autistic traits