The use of eye-tracking to explore social difficulties in cognitively able students with autism spectrum disorder: A pilot study

Mary Hanley, Debbie M. Riby, Clare Carty, Annie Melaugh McAteer, Andrew Kennedy, Martin McPhillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)
620 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder do not just 'grow out of' their early difficulties in understanding the social world. Even for those who are cognitively able, autism-related difficulties continue into adulthood. Atypicalities attending to and interpreting communicative signals from others can provide barriers to success in education, employment and relationships. In the current study, we use eye-tracking during real social interaction to explore attention to social cues (e.g. face, eyes, mouth) and links to social awareness in a group of cognitively able University students with autism spectrum disorder and typically developing students from the same University. During the interaction, students with autism spectrum disorder showed less eye fixation and more mouth fixation than typically developing students. Importantly, while 63% of typically developing participants reported thinking they were deceived about the true nature of the interaction, only 9% of autism spectrum disorder participants picked up this subtle social signal. We argue that understanding how these social attentional and social awareness difficulties manifest during adulthood is important given the growing number of adults with autism spectrum disorder who are attending higher level education. These adults may be particularly susceptible to drop-out due to demands of coping in situations where social awareness is so important.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)868-873
Number of pages6
JournalAutism
Volume19
Issue number7
Early online date06 May 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015

Keywords

  • autism spectrum disorders
  • eye-tracking
  • high functioning
  • social attention
  • social awareness
  • social interaction

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