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Autistic differences in the temporal dynamics of social attention

Hedger, N. and Chakrabarti, B. ORCID: (2021) Autistic differences in the temporal dynamics of social attention. Autism, 25 (6). pp. 1615-1626. ISSN 1362-3613

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1177/1362361321998573


Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) typically exhibit reduced visual attention towards social stimuli relative to neurotypical (NT) individuals. Importantly however, attention is not a static process, and it remains unclear how such effects may manifest over time. Exploring these momentary changes in gaze behavior can more clearly illustrate how individuals respond to social stimuli and provide insight into the mechanisms underlying reduced social attention in ASD. Using a simple passive eye-tracking task with competing presentations of social and nonsocial stimuli, we examine the different ways in which attention to social stimuli evolves over time in NT and ASD adults. Our temporal modeling of gaze behavior revealed divergent temporal profiles of social attention in NT and ASD observers. NT data showed an initial increase in social attention, a ‘decay’ and subsequent ‘recovery’ after prolonged viewing. By contrast, in ASD, social attention decayed over time in a linear fashion without recovery after prolonged viewing. We speculate that the ‘gaze cascade’ effect that maintains selection of social stimuli in NT observers is disrupted in individuals with high autistic traits. Considering these temporal components of gaze behavior may enhance behavioral phenotypes and theories of social attention in ASD.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:96021


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