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The Relationship between Attentional Processes and Social Referencing in Infants at High and Low Genetic Risk for Autism

Sperle, Lisa (2015) The Relationship between Attentional Processes and Social Referencing in Infants at High and Low Genetic Risk for Autism. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The present study investigated differences in social referencing and visual attention (e.g., attention to objects, attention to faces, and attention disengagement), and importantly, the extent to which variability in visual attention was related to social referencing among 11- and 16-month-old infants at high and low genetic risk for autism. Results indicate that HR infants referenced adults at a lower rate than did LR infants. Notably, 16-month-old infants later diagnosed with ASD referenced adults less frequently than typically-developing (TD) and non-typical (NT) infants, which suggests social referencing may be a promising early marker of ASD. When 16-month-olds were attending to the face, HR infants spent a smaller proportion of time looking at the top half of the face than LR infants. This finding indicates that HR infants distributed their attention within the face differently. In addition, associations between visual attention measures and variability in social referencing were found only among LR infants. Increased looking to the top half of the face was related to higher rates of social referencing in LR 16-month-olds. Conversely, LR 16-month-olds’ increased looking to objects was related to lower rates of social referencing. Broadly, results support the idea that visual attention indices are related to successful social referencing. As the first study known to identify correlations between visual attention and social referencing, these findings suggest that further investigation of the co-occurring development of visual attention and social-communicative behaviors in infancy is warranted.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sperle, Lisalis63@pitt.eduLIS63
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairStrauss, Mark S.
Committee MemberCampbell, Susan B.
Committee MemberBrownell, Celia
Date: 9 January 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 31 July 2014
Approval Date: 9 January 2015
Submission Date: 24 November 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 48
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: infants; autism; eye-tracking; visual attention; social referencing
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2015 20:52
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:25


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