Defining and quantifying the social phenotype in autism

Am J Psychiatry. 2002 Jun;159(6):895-908. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.159.6.895.


Objective: Genetic and neurofunctional research in autism has highlighted the need for improved characterization of the core social disorder defining the broad spectrum of syndrome manifestations.

Method: This article reviews the advantages and limitations of current methods for the refinement and quantification of this highly heterogeneous social phenotype.

Results: The study of social visual pursuit by use of eye-tracking technology is offered as a paradigm for novel tools incorporating these requirements and as a research effort that builds on the emerging synergy of different branches of social neuroscience.

Conclusions: Advances in the area will require increased consideration of processes underlying experimental results and a closer approximation of experimental methods to the naturalistic demands inherent in real-life social situations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / genetics*
  • Cues
  • Eye Movements / genetics*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Eye Movements / radiation effects
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / genetics
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Motion Pictures
  • Neurosciences / methods*
  • Neurosciences / trends
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Phenotype
  • Research Design / trends
  • Social Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Social Behavior Disorders / genetics*
  • Social Perception
  • Visual Perception / genetics*
  • Visual Perception / physiology