Objectives: To compare the susceptibilities to contagious yawning between the children with ASD and typically developing children under the condition in which they fixated on the yawning eyes.
Methods: Children with ASD (n=28) and typically developing children (n=50) between 6 to 18 years of age observed yawning and control movies, which are presented in pseudorandom order. Participants were instructed to watch the eyes of the face stimuli. The eye-tracker controlled the onset of yawning and control movies, which started only when participants fixated on the eyes for at least 500ms.
Results: Children with ASD and typically developing children yawned equally frequently in both the yawning as well as in the control condition (Mann-Whitney test: z =0.08, p >0.10) and both groups of children yawned more frequently in the yawning condition than in the control condition (Wilcoxon signed-rank test: children with ASD: z =-2.63, p <0.01, typically developing children: z =-3.18, p <0.01).
Conclusions: Results demonstrated that video images of yawning face induce yawning in children with ASD, when they fixated on the yawning eyes. It was suggested that the absence of contagious yawning in children with ASD, which is reported in the previous studies, may relate to the weaker tendency to spontaneously fixate on other’s eyes.
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