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Eye tracking studies of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) report a reduction in social attention and an increase in visual attention to non-social stimuli, including objects related to circumscribed interests (CI) (e.g., trains). In the current study, fifteen preschoolers with ASD and 15 typically developing controls matched on gender and age (range 24–62 months) were eye tracked while viewing a paired preference task of face and object stimuli. While co-varying verbal and nonverbal developmental quotients, preschoolers with ASD were similar to controls in their visual attention to faces presented with objects unrelated to CI, but attended significantly less than controls to faces presented with CI-related objects. This was consistent across three metrics: preference, prioritization and duration. Social attention in preschoolers with ASD therefore appears modulated by salience of competing non-social stimuli, which may affect the development of both social and non-social characteristics of the disorder.
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- Visual Attention to Competing Social and Object Images by Preschool Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Noah J. Sasson
Emily W. Touchstone
- Springer US