Conflict of interest: The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.
Absence of Preferential Unconscious Processing of Eye Contact in Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Article first published online: 24 JUN 2014
© 2014 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Volume 7, Issue 5, pages 590–597, October 2014
How to Cite
Akechi, H., Stein, T., Senju, A., Kikuchi, Y., Tojo, Y., Osanai, H. and Hasegawa, T. (2014), Absence of Preferential Unconscious Processing of Eye Contact in Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Res, 7: 590–597. doi: 10.1002/aur.1397
Grant sponsors: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS): Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows #2310946 (H.A.) and #2310196 (Y.K.), JSPS: Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) #24330207 (T.H.), UK Medical Research Council Career Development Award (G) #1100252 (A.S.), and Center for Evolutionary Cognitive Sciences at University of Tokyo.
- Issue published online: 16 OCT 2014
- Article first published online: 24 JUN 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 22 MAY 2014
- Manuscript Received: 16 JUL 2013
- Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). Grant Numbers: #2310946, #2310196, #24330207
- UK Medical Research Council Career Development Award. Grant Number: #1100252
- Center for Evolutionary Cognitive Sciences at University of Tokyo
- eye contact;
- gaze processing;
- autism spectrum disorder;
- unconscious processing
Eye contact plays an essential role in social interaction. Atypical eye contact is a diagnostic and widely reported feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here, we determined whether altered unconscious visual processing of eye contact might underlie atypical eye contact in ASD. Using continuous flash suppression (CFS), we found that typically developing (TD) adolescents detected faces with a direct gaze faster than faces with an averted gaze, indicating enhanced unconscious processing of eye contact. Critically, adolescents with ASD did not show different durations of perceptual suppression for faces with direct and averted gaze, suggesting that preferential unconscious processing of eye contact is absent in this group. In contrast, in a non-CFS control experiment, both adolescents with ASD and TD adolescents detected faces with a direct gaze faster than those with an averted gaze. Another CFS experiment confirmed that unconscious processing of non-social stimuli is intact for adolescents with ASD. These results suggest that atypical processing of eye contact in individuals with ASD could be related to a weaker initial, unconscious registration of eye contact. Autism Res 2014, 7: 590–597. © 2014 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.