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Face processing of animal and human static stimuli by children with autism spectrum disorder: a pilot study

By M. Grandgeorge, C. Degrez, Z. Alavi, E. Lemonnier

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Animals are part of humans' social environment and present numerous benefits. Each partner in a human-animal interaction uses signals emitted by the other (e.g. postures, gestures or gaze directions) to collect information to adjust their behaviour. Face processing impairment is associated with social interaction impairment observed in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). For example children with ASD explore human eyes visually less than do neurotypical (NT) children. Given the strong bonding between ASD children and animals, we hypothesized that animal face processing by ASD is normal. Thus, our study compared ASD (n=12) and NT (n=18) childrens' patterns of fixation of animal (horse, dog, and cat) and human faces in a passive viewing task using an eye tracking technique. Our results, using animal pictures, confirmed that the eyes were the part of the face looked at the longest by NT children and, to a lesser extent, by ASD children, but only NT children looked at the eyes of human pictures longer than other parts. Familiarity with animals seemed to modulate the exploration of animal, especially cat faces. Implications for understanding social interaction impairment related to ASD are discussed.

Publication Title Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin
Volume 4
Issue 1
Pages 39-53
Language English
Author Address Universite de Rennes 1, UMR CNRS 6552, Laboratoire Ethologie Animale et Humaine-EthoS, Station biologique, 35380 Paimpont,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Autism
  4. Behavioral research
  5. Canidae
  6. Canine
  7. Carnivores
  8. Cats
  9. Children
  10. Countries
  11. Developed countries
  12. Dogs
  13. Europe
  14. Face
  15. France
  16. Horses
  17. Humans
  18. Mammals
  19. Mediterranean region
  20. Men
  21. Non-communicable diseases and injuries
  22. OECD countries
  23. pathology
  24. Pets and companion animals
  25. Primates
  26. Psychiatry and psychology
  27. Relationships
  28. Social psychology and social anthropology
  29. stimuli
  30. ungulates
  31. vertebrates
  32. Zoology