Diminished visual monitoring of faces and activities of others is an early feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is uncertain whether deficits in activity monitoring, identified using a homogeneous set of stimuli, persist throughout the lifespan in ASD, and thus, whether they could serve as a biological indicator (“biomarker”) of ASD. We investigated differences in visual attention during activity monitoring in children and adult participants with autism compared to a control group of participants without autism.
Differences in attention to faces could constitute a feature discriminative between individuals with and without ASD across the lifespan, whereas between-group differences in looking at activities may shift with development. These findings may have applications in the search for underlying biological indicators specific to ASD.
Participants sat in a comfortable chair approximately 60 cm from a 23-inch computer screen (1920 × 1080 pixels). The height of the chair and screen were adjusted to ensure that participants’ eyes were level with the center of the screen. Eye-tracking data were collected using a 30 Hz eye tracker mounted below the screen. iMotions Biometric Research Platform was used for stimuli presentation, data synchronization, and automatic calibration. Participants could freely observe the presented stimuli. Before each experimental period, a five-point calibration procedure consisting of animated cartoon characters paired with an auditory cue was performed.