Objectives: Using the gap and overlap paradigm, we investigated the attentional disengagement from faces and non-facial objects in children with and without ASD.
Methods: Participants consisted of 9 children with ASD (mean 12.2 years; range 9-15 years) and 9 typically developing children (mean 12.1 years; range 9-14 years) matched on IQ. Children were required to saccade towards the peripheral target which followed the central fixation, and children’s eye movements were recorded using electrooculography (EOG). In the gap condition, a central fixation face or object disappeared 200 ms before onset of a peripheral target. In the overlap condition, the central fixation face or object remained until the children’s response.
Results: In the gap condition, SRT (saccadic reaction time) was not different between two groups. In the overlap condition, typically developing children took longer SRT for faces compared to children with ASD. In contrast, both groups did not differ in SRT for objects. Moreover, SRT for faces was longer than that for objects in typically developing children, while SRT for both of faces and objects did not differ in children with ASD.
Conclusions: These results suggest that faces hold attention longer than non-facial objects in typically developing children. In contrast, children with ASD do not show such specifically longer attentional dwelling towards others’ faces.