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Review
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What Can Eye Movements Tell Us About Subtle Cognitive Processing Differences in Autism?

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Review

What Can Eye Movements Tell Us About Subtle Cognitive Processing Differences in Autism?

Philippa L Howard et al. Vision (Basel).

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is neurodevelopmental condition principally characterised by impairments in social interaction and communication, and repetitive behaviours and interests. This article reviews the eye movement studies designed to investigate the underlying sampling or processing differences that might account for the principal characteristics of autism. Following a brief summary of a previous review chapter by one of the authors of the current paper, a detailed review of eye movement studies investigating various aspects of processing in autism over the last decade will be presented. The literature will be organised into sections covering different cognitive components, including language and social communication and interaction studies. The aim of the review will be to show how eye movement studies provide a very useful on-line processing measure, allowing us to account for observed differences in behavioural data (accuracy and reaction times). The subtle processing differences that eye movement data reveal in both language and social processing have the potential to impact in the everyday communication domain in autism.

Keywords: autism; cognitive processing; eye movements; social and everyday communication.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Example of the word learning paradigm used by Norbury et al [10]. Reproduced with permission from Elsevier. Image (A) is an example of the gaze neutral condition and image (B) is an example of the gaze bias condition.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Example of the passage level (a) and sentence level (b) anomaly stimuli used within Au-Yeung et al.’s [47] experiment. Reproduced with permission from SAGE.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Group and anomaly type interaction for regression path durations reported by Au-Yeung et al. (2017) [47]. Reproduced with permission from SAGE.
Figure 4
Figure 4
Example of social normal (A), social weird (B), physical normal (C), and physical weird (D) stimuli from Benson et al.’s experiment [61]. Reproduced with permission from John Wiley and Sons. The black rectangles represent the target region and were not visible during the experiment.
Figure 5
Figure 5
The interaction between oddity type and group for first fixation duration (FFD) detected in Benson et al.’s [61] experiment, indicating a temporal delay in the initial detection of social, but not physical/perceptual, oddities for autistic adults. Reproduced with permission from John Wiley and Sons.
Figure 6
Figure 6
Percentage gaze to areas of interest for each section and for each group during a face-to-face interaction in Hanley et al.’s research [62]. Reproduced with permission from Elsevier.

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