October 30, 2020

Insufficient Eye Tracking Data Leads to Errors in Evaluating Typical and Atypical Fixation Preferences

Eye tracking provides insights into social processing and its deficits in disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), especially in conjunction with dynamic, naturalistic stimuli. However, reliance on manual stimuli segmentation severely limits scalability. We assessed how the amount of available data impacts individual reliability of fixation preference for different facial features, and the effect of this reliability on between-group differences. We trained an artificial neural network to segment 22 Hollywood movie clips (7410 frames). We then analyzed fixation preferences in typically developing participants and participants with ASD as we incrementally introduced movie data for analysis. Although fixations were initially variable, results stabilized as more data was added. Additionally, while those with ASD displayed significantly fewer face-centered fixations (p<.001), they did not differ in eye or mouth fixations. Our results highlight the validity of treating fixation preferences as a stable individual trait, and the risk of misinterpretation with insufficient data.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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