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J Exp Child Psychol. 2010 Jan-Feb;105(1-2):20-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2009.10.001. Epub 2009 Nov 11.

The eye gaze direction of an observed person can bias perception, memory, and attention in adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorder.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK.


The reported experiments aimed to investigate whether a person and his or her gaze direction presented in the context of a naturalistic scene cause perception, memory, and attention to be biased in typically developing adolescents and high-functioning adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A novel computerized image manipulation program presented a series of photographic scenes, each containing a person. The program enabled participants to laterally maneuver the scenes behind a static window, the borders of which partially occluded the scenes. The gaze direction of the person in the scenes spontaneously cued attention of both groups in the direction of gaze, affecting judgments of preference (Experiment 1a) and causing memory biases (Experiment 1b). Experiment 2 showed that the gaze direction of a person cues visual search accurately to the exact location of gaze in both groups. These findings suggest that biases in preference, memory, and attention are caused by another person's gaze direction when viewed in a complex scene in adolescents with and without ASD.

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