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Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Stuck on you: Face-to-face arousal and gaze aversion in Williams syndrome
Author(s): Doherty-Sneddon, Gwyneth
Riby, Deborah
Calderwood, Lesley
Ainsworth, Leanne
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Keywords: Gaze aversion
Williams syndrome
Physiological arousal
Issue Date: Nov-2009
Citation: Doherty-Sneddon G, Riby D, Calderwood L & Ainsworth L (2009) Stuck on you: Face- to-face arousal and gaze aversion in Williams syndrome, Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 14 (6), pp. 510-523.
Abstract: Introduction: During face-to-face questioning typically developing children and adults use gaze aversion (GA), away from their questioner, when thinking. GA increases with question difficulty and improves the accuracy of responses. We investigate whether individuals with Williams syndrome (WS), associated with hyper-sociability and atypical face gaze, use GA to manage cognitive load and whether physiological arousal is associated with looking at faces. Methods: Two studies were conducted by: i) Recording changes in the participants’ skin conductance levels whilst manipulating task difficulty and gaze direction and ii) Calculating the amount of GA away from the experimenters’ face whilst answering questions of varying difficulty. Results: In study 1, whilst WS was associated with general hypo-arousal, face arousal effects were found for both Williams syndrome and typically developing participants. In study 2, participants with WS showed prolonged face gaze under high task demands, however question difficulty did increase GA. Conclusions: Looking at faces is demanding, even for individuals with WS. Decreased physiological arousal may allow individuals with WS hold face gaze for prolonged periods of time, but looking at faces does increase baseline arousal level. The results are discussed in terms of social skills training and teaching methods appropriate for
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Rights: Published in Cognitive Neuropsychiatry by Taylor & Francis (Psychology Press).; This is an electronic version of an article published in Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Volume 14, Issue 6, November 2009, pp. 510 - 523. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry is available online at:

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