Objectives: To investigate whether children with ASD integrate facial expression and gaze direction from the eye region of the face stimuli.
Methods: Participants consisted of 10 children with ASD (mean age 12.3; range 10-16) and 10 TD children (mean age 11.3; range 10-14), who were matched on IQ. The eye regions of the faces displaying anger or fear were presented for the participants, and they were asked to discriminate the facial expressions. The gaze direction of the stimuli were either directed toward the participant or laterally averted.
Results: Gaze direction of the stimuli modulated the speed of facial expression discrimination in TD children. However, the performance of children with ASD was not affected by the gaze direction of the stimuli. These results replicated our previous study, which used the whole face as the stimuli.
Conclusions: Results suggest that children with ASD do not spontaneously integrate affective or communicative valence of facial expression and gaze direction, even when they attend to others’ eyes.