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    An eye-tracking study of selective trust development in children with and without autism spectrum disorder

    Ostashchenko, E ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4817-5753, Deliens, G, Durrleman, S and Kissine, M (2019) An eye-tracking study of selective trust development in children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 189. ISSN 0022-0965

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    The purpose of this study was to explore whether children with autism display selectivity in social learning. We investigated the processing of word mappings provided by speakers who differed on previously demonstrated accuracy and on potential degree of reliability in three groups of children (children with autism spectrum disorder, children with developmental language disorder, and typically developing children) aged 4–9 years. In Task 1, one speaker consistently misnamed familiar objects and the second speaker consistently gave correct names. In Task 2, both speakers provided correct information but differed on how they could achieve this accuracy. We analyzed how the speakers’ profiles influenced children's decisions to rely on them in order to learn novel words. We also examined how children attended to the speakers’ testimony by tracking their eye movements and comparing children’ gaze distribution across speakers’ faces and objects of their choice. Results show that children rely on associative trait attribution heuristics to selectively learn from accurate speakers. In Task 1, children in all groups preferred the novel object selected by accurate speakers and directly avoided information provided by previously inaccurate speakers, as revealed by the eye-tracking data. In Task 2, where more sophisticated reasoning about speakers’ reliability was required, only children in the typically developing group performed above chance. Nonverbal intelligence score emerged as a predictor of children's preference for more reliable informational sources. In addition, children with autism exhibited reduced attention to speakers’ faces compared with children in the comparison groups.

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