Linking social behaviour and anxiety to attention to emotional faces in Williams syndrome

Hannah E. Kirk*, Darren R. Hocking, Deborah M. Riby, Kim M. Cornish

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    The neurodevelopmental disorder Williams syndrome (WS) has been associated with a social phenotype of hypersociability, non-social anxiety and an unusual attraction to faces. The current study uses eye tracking to explore attention allocation to emotionally expressive faces. Eye gaze and behavioural measures of anxiety and social reciprocity were investigated in adolescents and adults with WS when compared to typically developing individuals of comparable verbal mental age (VMA) and chronological age (CA). Results showed significant associations between high levels of behavioural anxiety and attention allocation away from the eye regions of threatening facial expressions in WS. The results challenge early claims of a unique attraction to the eyes in WS and suggest that individual differences in anxiety may mediate the allocation of attention to faces in WS.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4608-4616
    Number of pages9
    JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


    • Anxiety
    • Emotional expressions
    • Eye gaze
    • Social responsiveness
    • Williams syndrome


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