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

By Marine Grandgeorge, CÈline Degrez, Zarrin Alavi, Eric Lemonnier

Category Journal Articles

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.

Date 2016
Publication Title Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin
Volume 4
Issue 1
Pages 39-53
Language English
Additional Language English
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. Eyes
  15. Face
  16. France
  17. Horses
  18. Human-animal interactions
  19. Humans
  20. Mammals
  21. Mediterranean region
  22. Men
  23. Non-communicable diseases and injuries
  24. OECD countries
  25. open access
  26. pathology
  27. peer-reviewed
  28. Pets and companion animals
  29. Primates
  30. Psychiatry and psychology
  31. Relationships
  32. Social psychology and social anthropology
  33. stimuli
  34. ungulates
  35. vertebrates
  36. visual attention
  37. Zoology
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed