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M.D. Rutherford, Jennifer A. Walsh; Group Difference in Feature Scanning While Learning Novel Faces. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):494. doi: 10.1167/12.9.494.
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The scanpath used by typical individuals while looking at a familiar face is measurably different that used when they look at a novel face. It has been suggested that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) do not show such a difference. In this study we investigated the implicit timeline of novel faces becoming familiar. Twelve participants with high-functioning ASD or Asperger’s (Mean age = 28.08 years, SD= 6.29) and 16 controls (Mean age = 27.44, SD = 6.76) passively viewed 17 unique images of 6 individuals and 6 houses while eye gaze information was collection via eye tracking technology. Specifically we measured changes in the number of fixations and total fixation duration within two areas of interest (eyes and mouth for faces; upper and lower feature for houses). Both groups showed evidence of learning for both faces and houses; eye gaze patterns for both groups changed systematically with increased exposures. The effect of exposures was not significantly different between groups demonstrating that the process of learning novel faces and houses was similar in both groups. Analysis of mean number of fixations and total fixation duration per exposure revealed significant group differences: the ASD participants showed no differences in eye gaze patterns for the eyes and mouth areas of the face in both upright and inverted faces. However, the typical group showed a focus on eyes compared to the mouth and this difference was more evident for inverted faces. There were no group differences in the effects of time and mean gaze patterns for upright or inverted houses, indicating that group differences in learning complex stimuli are specific to social stimuli. The areas of the faces that individuals focus on differed between groups and this difference was even more evident for inverted faces, for which learning is a more complex social cognitive task.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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