Spontaneous Attention to Faces in Asperger Sndrome using Ecologically Valid Static Stimuli

Mary Hanley, Martin McPhillips, Gerry Mulhern, Debbie Riby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Citations (Scopus)
198 Downloads (Pure)


Previous eye tracking research on the allocation of attention to social information by individuals with autism spectrum disorders is equivocal and may be in part a consequence of variation in stimuli used between studies. The current study explored attention allocation to faces, and within faces,
by individuals with Asperger syndrome using a range of static stimuli where faces were either viewed in isolation or viewed in the context of a social scene. Results showed that faces were viewed typically by the individuals with Asperger syndrome when presented in isolation, but attention to the eyes was significantly diminished in comparison to age and IQ-matched typical viewers when faces were viewed as part of social scenes. We show that when using static stimuli, there is evidence of atypicality for individuals with Asperger syndrome depending on the extent of social context. Our findings shed light on the previous explanations of gaze behaviour that have emphasised the role of movement in atypicalities of social attention in autism spectrum disorders and highlight the importance of consideration of the realistic portrayal of social information for future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)754-761
Number of pages8
Issue number6
Early online date17 Sep 2012
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2013


  • Asperger syndrome
  • autism
  • eye tracking
  • face perception
  • social attention

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