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Title: Using eye-tracking technology to investigate and operantly condition gaze behaviour of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders
Author: McParland, Aideen
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 4712
Awarding Body: Ulster University
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2018
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Within Northern Ireland, 2.5% of compulsory school- aged children (4-15 years old) are currently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) (Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety, 2017). This thesis focused on one behaviour believed to develop atypically among children diagnosed with ASD- gaze behaviour towards social stimuli. It also focused on designing and implementing a robust intervention based on operant principles of behaviour analysis to help teach ‘typical’ gaze behaviour to these children when viewing social stimuli, for example, faces. Chapter 1 begins by outlining the behavioural phenotype of ASD, including gaze behaviour, and the eye-tracking technology used to assess such. Chapter 2 introduces the behavioural approach taken in this thesis when designing an intervention targeted at gaze behaviour. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 include three single­ subject experimental studies that used a variety of novel social stimuli to investigate gaze behaviour of children with ASD and Typically Developing (TD) children. Eye-tracking results from Chapter 3 (Study 1) supported previous research which has found gaze behaviour towards static social stimuli to be more ‘typical’ for individuals with ASD. Also corroborating with previous eye-tracking research were results from Chapter 4 (Study 2), which highlighted an atypical pattern of gaze behaviour among children with ASD when viewing dynamic social stimuli. Additionally, Chapters 3 and 4 included operant training that reinforced a target behaviour of fixating on a face stimulus. Results revealed a change in gaze behaviour for children with ASD («=18) and TD children («= 21) when viewing static and dynamic social stimuli, evidenced in these children fixating on faces for longer post training. Chapter 5 (Study 3) was based on an overwhelming majority of children with ASD preferring to look at anime images of faces in Study 1. Eye-tracking results showed this preference extended into dynamic anime stimuli for all ASD children, but not TD children. Chapter 6 investigated gaze behaviour during ‘real-world’ social interactions for ASD and TD children. Results demonstrated an atypical pattern of gaze behaviour among ASD children and a change in gaze behaviour for all ASD and TD children (w= 14), who looked longer towards face stimuli in response to operant training. Chapter 7 concludes this thesis by discussing, more generally, research findings of these four experimental studies and highlights future directions for eye-tracking research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available