July 2013
Volume 13, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2013
Abnormality in face scanning by children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is limited to the eye region: Evidence from multi-method analyses of eye tracking
Author Affiliations
  • Li Yi
    Department of Psychology, Sun Yat-sen University
  • Yubing Liu
    Department of Psychology, Sun Yat-sen University
  • Paul Quinn
    Department of Psychology, University of Delaware
  • Yuebo Fan
    Guangzhou Cana School \nGuangzhou Rehabilitation & Research Center for Children with ASD
  • Cong Feng
    Department of Philosophy, Sun Yat-sen University\nInstitute of Logic and Cognition, Sun Yat-sen University
  • Guoquan Mao
    Department of Psychology, Sun Yat-sen University
  • Kang Lee
    Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto
Journal of Vision July 2013, Vol.13, 842. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.842
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      Li Yi, Yubing Liu, Paul Quinn, Yuebo Fan, Cong Feng, Guoquan Mao, Kang Lee; Abnormality in face scanning by children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is limited to the eye region: Evidence from multi-method analyses of eye tracking. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):842. https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.842.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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There has been considerable controversy regarding whether children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and typically developing children (TD) show different eye movement patterns when processing faces. We investigated ASD and age- and IQ-matched TD children’s fixations and scanning of faces using a novel multi-method approach inclusive of the traditional AOI approach, a data-driven analysis, and a saccade path analysis. We found that ASD children spent less time looking at the whole face generally. After controlling for this difference, ASD children’s fixations of the other face parts, except for the eye region, and their scanning paths between face parts were comparable either to the age-matched or IQ-matched TD groups. In contrast, in the eye region, ASD children’s scanning differed significantly from that of both TD groups in a highly specific manner. First, ASD children fixated significantly less on the right eye than both TD groups. Second, unlike both TD groups, ASD children’s fixations were more biased towards the left eye region. Third, their fixations to the left eye region were different from those of both TD groups: Whereas TD children fixated on the pupil region of the eye, ASD children fixated below the left eye as though they were trying to avoid direct eye contact. We conclude that ASD children do not have a general and pervasive abnormality in face scanning. Rather, their abnormality is limited only to the eye region, likely due to their strong tendency to avoid eye contact. This abnormality may be partially responsible for ASD children’s significantly poorer face recognition performance than TD children.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013


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