Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 9, pp 2831–2844 | Cite as

Validation of the Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition in Adolescents with ASD: Fixation Duration and Pupil Dilation as Predictors of Performance

  • Nico MüllerEmail author
  • Sarah Baumeister
  • Isabel Dziobek
  • Tobias Banaschewski
  • Luise Poustka
Original Paper


Impaired social cognition is one of the core characteristics of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Appropriate measures of social cognition for high-functioning adolescents with ASD are, however, lacking. The Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition (MASC) uses dynamic social stimuli, ensuring ecological validity, and has proven to be a sensitive measure in adulthood. In the current study, 33 adolescents with ASD and 23 controls were administered the MASC, while concurrent eye tracking was used to relate gaze behavior to performance levels. The ASD group exhibited reduced MASC scores, with social cognition performance being explained by shorter fixation duration on eyes and decreased pupil dilation. These potential diagnostic markers are discussed as indicators of different processing of social information in ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder Eye-tracking Adolescence Pupil dilation Social cognition Ecological validity 



The research leading to these results has received support from the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking under Grant Agreement No 115300, resources of which are composed of financial contribution from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) and EFPIA companies’ in kind contribution. The current study is part of the first author’s doctoral dissertation. Parts of the results of the current study will be presented at the 9. Conference of the Society for Research in Autism Spectrum Conditions (WGAS) in Freiburg, Germany.

Author Contributions

NM conceived of the study, participated in the study's design and coordination, performed the measurement and statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript. SB participated in its design and coordination, performed the measurement, and helped to draft the manuscript. ID participated in its design and helped to draft the manuscript. TB participated in its design and helped to draft the manuscript. LP conceived of the study, participated in its design and interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Prof. Dr. Poustka received conference attendance support or was paid for public speaking by Lilly, Shire and Medice. She received research funding from EU, German Research Foundation (DFG), Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Prof. Dr. Dr. Banaschewski served in an advisory or consultancy role for Actelion, Hexal Pharma, Lilly, Medice, Novartis, Oxford outcomes, PCM scientific, Shire and Viforpharma. He received conference support or speaker’s fee by Medice, Novartis and Shire. He is/has been involved in clinical trials conducted by Shire & Viforpharma. Their present work is unrelated to the above grants and relationships. Prof. Dr. Isabel Dziobek receives royalties for the Swedish version of the MASC from Hans Huber Publishers. Dr. Sarah Baumeister and Nico Müller declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10803_2016_2828_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nico Müller
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah Baumeister
    • 1
  • Isabel Dziobek
    • 2
  • Tobias Banaschewski
    • 1
  • Luise Poustka
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Central Institute of Mental HealthHeidelberg UniversityMannheimGermany
  2. 2.Berlin School of Mind and Brain and Institute of PsychologyHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryMedical University of ViennaViennaAustria

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