We examined whether eye gaze triggers reflexive attentional shift in autism. First, autistic individuals who were lacking both joint attention behaviors and theory-of-mind abilities were examined. Targets were randomly presented to either the left or right side of a gazing face. Autistic subjects localized the targets faster when targets were congruent with than against gaze directions. The occurrence of this gaze-triggered attentional shift was further examined using different stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) in autistic individuals and non-autistic controls. Autistic subjects similar to non-autistic controls responded faster when the targets were congruent with than against gaze directions for short SOA conditions. These results suggest that autistic individuals, even those lacking joint attention behaviors, respond reflexively to another person’s gaze directions.
2003 by the PSYCHOLOGIA SOCIETY