Observing eye contact between others enhances the tendency to subsequently follow their gaze, and has been suggested to function as a social signal that adds meaning to an upcoming action or event. The present study investigated effects of observed eye contact in high-functioning autism (HFA). Two faces on a screen either looked at or away from each other before providing gaze cues to one of two target locations. In contrast to control participants, participants with HFA did not show enhanced gaze following after observing eye contact. Individuals with autism, hence, do not seem to process observed mutual gaze as a social signal indicating the relevance of upcoming (gaze) behaviour. This may be based on the reduced tendency of individuals with HFA to engage in social gaze behavior themselves, and might underlie some of the characteristic deficiencies in social communicative behaviour in autism.
- gaze following
- joint attention
- social cognition
- high-functioning autism
Böckler, A., Timmermans, B., Sebanz, N., Vogeley, K., & Schilbach, L. (2014). Effects of observing eye contact on gaze following in high-functioning autism. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 44(7), 1651-1658. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2038-5