Eye movements in autism spectrum disorder

Valerie Benson and Sue Fletcher-Watson

in The Oxford Handbook of Eye Movements

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199539789
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Eye movements in autism spectrum disorder

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a term encompassing a range of developmental conditions principally characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication. It is unclear to what extent the social difficulties experienced by people with ASD result from differences in sampling the social environment, or differences in interpreting the information sampled, or both. In addition, perceptual and attentional atypicalities are common in the disorder. This chapter reviews how eye tracking has been used to explore all of these issues. We organize the literature into sections covering low-level eye-movement characteristics; perception of complex stimuli; and processing of, and attention to social information. The heterogeneity of the disorder, changes across development, and the effect of general ability and linguistic level all impact upon findings. We interpret the studies reviewed in terms of these effects and link findings to theoretical accounts of autism, as well as considering the future of eye-movement research in ASD.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; eye movement; visual sampling; perceptual process; complex stimuli

Article.  12410 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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