Selective visual attention at twelve months: signs of autism in early social interactions

J Autism Dev Disord. 2012 Apr;42(4):487-98. doi: 10.1007/s10803-011-1262-5.


We examined social attention and attention shifting during (a) a play interaction between 12-month olds and an examiner and (b) after the examiner pretended to hurt herself. We coded the target and duration of infants' visual fixations and frequency of attention shifts. Siblings of children with autism and controls with no family history of autism were tested at 12 months and screened for ASD at 36 months. Groups did not differ on proportion of attention to social stimuli or attention shifting during the play condition. All groups demonstrated more social attention and attention shifting during the distress condition. Infants later diagnosed with ASD tended to continue looking at a toy during the distress condition despite the salience of social information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Play and Playthings
  • Social Behavior*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*