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Autism Research and Treatment
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 971686, 8 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/971686
Clinical Study

Presence of Contagious Yawning in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

1Department of Cognitive and Behavioral Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
2Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK
3Department of Education for Children with Disabilities, Ibaraki University, Ibaraki, Japan
4Musashino Higashi Center for Education and Research, Musashino Higashi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan

Received 15 April 2013; Accepted 2 July 2013

Academic Editor: Elizabeth Aylward

Copyright © 2013 Saori Usui et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Most previous studies suggest diminished susceptibility to contagious yawning in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, it could be driven by their atypical attention to the face. To test this hypothesis, children with ASD and typically developing (TD) children were shown yawning and control movies. To ensure participants' attention to the face, an eye tracker controlled the onset of the yawning and control stimuli. Results demonstrated that both TD children and children with ASD yawned more frequently when they watched the yawning stimuli than the control stimuli. It is suggested therefore that the absence of contagious yawning in children with ASD, as reported in previous studies, might relate to their weaker tendency to spontaneously attend to others' faces.