Poster Session F, Tuesday, March 26, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Cartoons, Animals, and Autistic Traits: An Eye Tracking Study
Nicole L. Dalasio1, Jenifer Joseph1, Jennifer L. Stevenson1; 1Ursinus College
Autistic individuals often exhibit reduced attention to the eye region compared to non-autistic individuals while viewing facial stimuli. However, differences in the types of face stimuli presented, such as their level of realism (e.g., photographs versus cartoons) and types of faces (e.g., human or animal faces), have led to conflicting conclusions about the nature and extent of such differences between autistic and non-autistic individuals. Few facial processing studies have explored differences associated with varying levels of autistic traits. This study investigated the relationship between autistic traits and eye movements while passively viewing facial stimuli. Thirty-eight college-aged students (M = 19.66, SD = 1.21) viewed 105 randomized stimuli, during which eye fixation data were collected. Stimuli included human and animal faces with three levels of realistic depiction (i.e., cartoons, semi-cartoonized, or photographs). Participants were subdivided into high and low autistic trait groups using a median split (Mdn = 114.5) on the Autism-Spectrum Quotient. As predicted, this study found no correlations, main effects, or interactions (all p > .05) involving autistic traits and eye fixation. Significant differences in fixation duration and count appeared to be driven by stimulus design. The novel task, stimulus design, and fixation cross placement in this study potentially mitigate effects of autistic traits in previous eye-tracking studies. These findings suggest that underlying differences in autistic facial processing, as measured by eye fixation, may not be a function of autistic traits and are more nuanced than previously believed.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Person perception