Sensitivity to social contingency in adults with high-functioning autism during computer-mediated embodied interaction

Leonardo Zapata-Fonseca* (Corresponding Author), Tom Froese, Leonhard Schilbach, Kai Vogeley, Bert Timmermans* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be understood as a social interaction disorder. This makes the emerging “second-person approach” to social cognition a more promising framework for studying ASD than classical approaches focusing on mindreading capacities in detached, observer-based arrangements. According to the second-person approach, embodied, perceptual, and embedded or interactive capabilities are also required for understanding others, and these are hypothesized to be compromised in ASD. We therefore recorded the dynamics of real-time sensorimotor interaction in pairs of control participants and participants with High-Functioning Autism (HFA), using the minimalistic human-computer interface paradigm known as “perceptual crossing” (PC). We investigated whether HFA is associated with impaired detection of social contingency, i.e., a reduced sensitivity to the other’s responsiveness to one’s own behavior. Surprisingly, our analysis reveals that, at least under the conditions of this highly simplified, computer-mediated, embodied form of social interaction, people with HFA perform equally well as controls. This finding supports the increasing use of virtual reality interfaces for helping people with ASD to better compensate for their social disabilities. Further dynamical analyses are necessary for a better understanding of the mechanisms that are leading to the somewhat surprising results here obtained.
Original languageEnglish
Article number22
Number of pages14
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2018


  • sensorimotor contingencies
  • intersubjectivity
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • embodied interaction
  • social interaction
  • virtual reality
  • human-computer interface


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