Does Gaze Direction Modulate Facial Expression Processing in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder?


  • We would like to acknowledge all the children, their parents, and the teachers of Musashino Higashi Gakuen. We thank Rie Fukumoto and the other staff members for their assistance in data collection and thank Koki Ikeda, Kikue Sakaguchi, and all other members of Hasegawa Lab for their support and helpful discussions. This study was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), 21st Century COE Program J05, “Center for Evolutionary Cognitive Sciences at the University of Tokyo,” and JSPS KAKENHI (19330210). A.S. was also supported by the ESRC Research Fellowship (RES-063-27-0207).

concerning this article should be addressed to Atsushi Senju, School of Psychology, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, United Kingdom. Electronic mail may be sent to


Two experiments investigated whether children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) integrate relevant communicative signals, such as gaze direction, when decoding a facial expression. In Experiment 1, typically developing children (9–14 years old; n = 14) were faster at detecting a facial expression accompanying a gaze direction with a congruent motivational tendency (i.e., an avoidant facial expression with averted eye gaze) than those with an incongruent motivational tendency. Children with ASD (9–14 years old; n = 14) were not affected by the gaze direction of facial stimuli. This finding was replicated in Experiment 2, which presented only the eye region of the face to typically developing children (n = 10) and children with ASD (n = 10). These results demonstrated that children with ASD do not encode and/or integrate multiple communicative signals based on their affective or motivational tendency.