Adaptation to different communicative contexts: an eye tracking study of autistic adults

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TitleAdaptation to different communicative contexts: an eye tracking study of autistic adults
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsParish-Morris, J, Pallathra, AA, Ferguson, E, Maddox, BB, Pomykacz, A, Perez, LS, Bateman, L, Pandey, J, Schultz, RT, Brodkin, ES
JournalJournal of neurodevelopmental disorders

Learning through social observation (i.e., watching other people interact) lays the foundation for later social skills and social cognition. However, social situations are often complex, and humans are only capable of attending to one aspect of a scene at a time. How do people choose where to allocate their visual resources when viewing complex social scenarios? For typically developing (TD) individuals, faces are often given priority. Depending upon context, however, it may be more useful to attend to other aspects of the environment, such as hands, tools, or background objects. Previous studies reported reduced face looking in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but modulation of visual attention in response to contextual differences (e.g., according to social richness, or the presence/absence of communicative behaviors between two people) has only briefly been explored. In this study, we used eye-tracking technology to test the extent to which ASD adults and TD adults use social context to guide their gaze behavior.