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Abstract

Mounting clinical evidence suggests that abnormalities of social engagement in children with autism are present even during infancy. However, direct experimental documentation of these abnormalities is still limited. In this case report of a 15-month-old infant with autism, we measured visual fixation patterns to both naturalistic and ambiguous social stimuli: video scenes of a caregiver and point-light animations of human action. Results suggested that viewing patterns of the child with autism were driven by the physical contingencies of the stimuli rather than by their social context. If corroborated in larger studies, this observation would advance the hypothesis that mechanisms of social development which rely on preferential engagement with socially contingent conspecifics – and which emerge in the very first weeks of life in typical infants – are developmentally derailed in children with autism.