ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Vol. In Press
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Eye contact takes two – autistic and social anxiety traits predict gaze behavior in dyadic interaction

  Roy S. Hessels - Experimental Psychology, Helmholtz Institute, Utre
  Gijs A. Holleman - Experimental Psychology, Helmholtz Institute, Utre
  Tim H.W. Cornelissen - Scene Grammar Lab, Department of Cognitive Psychol
  Ignace T.C. Hooge - Experimental Psychology, Helmholtz Institute, Utre
  Chantal Kemner - Experimental Psychology, Helmholtz Institute, Utre

In Press (Uncorrected Proof), Pages 1-20


Research on social impairments in psychopathology has relied heavily on the face processing literature. However, although many sub-systems of facial information processing are described, recent evidence suggests that generalizability of these findings to social settings may be limited. The main argument is that in social interaction, the content of faces is more dynamic and dependent on the interplay between interaction partners, than the content of a non-responsive face (e.g. pictures or videos) as portrayed in a typical experiment. The question beckons whether gaze atypicalities to non-responsive faces in certain disorders generalize to faces in interaction. In the present study, a dual eye-tracking setup capable of recording gaze with high resolution was used to investigate how gaze behavior in interaction is related to traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). As clinical ASD and SAD groups have exhibited deficiencies in reciprocal social behavior, traits of these two conditions were assessed in a general population. We report that gaze behavior in interaction of individuals scoring high on ASD and SAD traits corroborates hypotheses posed in typical face-processing research using non-responsive stimuli. Moreover, our findings on the relation between paired gaze states (when and how often pairs look at each others eyes simultaneously or alternately) and ASD and SAD traits bear resemblance to prevailing models in the ASD literature (the ‘gaze aversion’ model) and SAD literature (the ‘vigilant-avoidance’ model). Pair-based analyses of gaze may reveal behavioral patterns crucial to our understanding of ASD and SAD, and more general to our understanding of eye movements as social signals in interaction.

Table of Contents

Correspondence to
Dr. Roy S. Hessels

eye tracking; face perception; social interaction; autism; social anxiety

Received 16 May 2017; Revised 22 Sep 2017; Accepted 22 Sep 2017; In Press 31 Oct 2017

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