In theory, autistic individuals shun eye contact with others.
According to a new study, that’s not a voluntary or learned behavior. Eye contact can cause excessive stimulation of a section of the brain, and that in turn can be felt as pain by the individual.
That makes sense. If something causes pain, you usually try to avoid doing it.
Unfortunately, lack of eye contact is also interpreted by some as a sign of dishonesty. With the autistic person, that interpretation simply doesn’t apply.
Bottom line: you have to get to know someone in order to understand what their physical cues mean.
- Nouchine Hadjikhani, Jakob Åsberg Johnels, Nicole R. Zürcher, Amandine Lassalle, Quentin Guillon, Loyse Hippolyte, Eva Billstedt, Noreen Ward, Eric Lemonnier, Christopher Gillberg. Look me in the eyes: constraining gaze in the eye-region provokes abnormally high subcortical activation in autism. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-03378-5