Attention Research

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Eye-tracking Gaze Path

Attention Research

Our research focuses on identifying causal mechanisms that lead to the differential development of social attention in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as the cascading effects of social attentional impairments, especially joint attention (JA), on various domains of functioning. We employ a range of methodologies, including eye tracking, large, shared data sets, and behavioral coding to examine JA and other social attention behaviors.

Ongoing research interests include:

  • Applying information-processing theories of attentional impairment typically used to explain mood and anxiety disorders to examine the function and origin of attention biases in ASD.
  • Using eye-tracking technology to:
    • measure and increase the understanding of the development of JA.
    • evaluate the effectiveness of interventions designed to enhance social attention among individuals in ASD.
    • investigate critical points in development when children with autism demonstrate divergent social attention.
  • Assessing how distinct social attention behaviors may relate to one another.

Relevant Publications

Harrison, A.J., Lu, Z., McLean, R., & Sheinkopf, S.J. (2016). Cognitive and adaptive correlates of an ADOS derived joint attention composite. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 29, 66-78.

Johnson Harrison, A., Gamsiz, E.D., Berkowitz, I.C.,* Nagpal, S. & Jerskey, B.A. (2015). Genetic variation in the oxytocin receptor gene is associated with a social phenotype in autism spectrum disorders. American Journal of Medical Genetics: Part B, 168(8), 720-729. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32377 .

Johnson Harrison, A., & Gibb, B. E. (2015). Attentional Biases in Currently Depressed Children: An Eye-Tracking Study of Biases in Sustained Attention to Emotional Stimuli. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 44(6), 1008-1114.

Johnson, A. L., Gillis, J., & Romanczyk, R. (2012). Quantifying and correlating social behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders using eye-tracking methodologies, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 1053-1060.

Schofield, C.A., Johnson, A.L., Coles, M.E., & Inhoff, A. (2012). Understanding attentional biases in social anxiety: Eye-tracking research. Cognition & Emotion, 26, 300–311.

Gibb, B. E., Johnson, A. L., Benas, J. S., Uhrlass, D. J., Knopik, V. S. & McGeary, J. (2011).Children’s 5-HTTLPR genotype moderates the link between maternal criticism and attentional biases specifically for facial displays of anger. Cognition & Emotion, 25, 1104-1120.

Johnson, A. L., Gibb, B. E., & McGeary, J. (2010). Reports of childhood physical abuse, 5-HTTLPR genotype and women’s attentional biases for angry faces. Cognitive Research and Therapy, 34, 380-387.




Cross Cultural & Global ASD Research

Testing Setting1

Tanzania Field Testing Site

Our lab examines factors contributing to disparities in ASD services, such as ASD knowledge.

Current interests in this area include:

  • Assessing ASD knowledge or stigmas of ASD:
    • Developing a new measure of ASD knowledge entitled, the Autism Stigma & Knowledge Questionnaire (ASK-Q).
    • Continuing to norm and assess the psychometric properties of the ASK-Q.
    • Examining the cross-cultural utility of the ASK-Q.
    • Assessing ASD knowledge or stigmas of ASD in low- and middle-income countries such as Tanzania.
    • Examining factors, such as limited knowledge, that may contribute to an underutilization of Early Intervention services in local schools.
  • Developing and implementing ASD knowledge interventions
    • Implementing interventions among non-English-speaking parents and teachers to help increase knowledge of behavior modification strategies that can be used to improve child functional outcomes using verbal didactics, pictorial handouts, interpreters, and strategy modeling. Assessing the efficacy of these interventions using the ASK-Q.
    • Developing individual and community intervention approaches to address low ASD knowledge and stigmas in low-income countries.
    • Evaluating teacher and parent psychoeducational interventions conducted in Tanzania and other countries.

Relevant Publications

Harrison, A.J., Long, K.A., Tommet, D.C., & Jones, R.N., & (in press). Examining the role of race, ethnicity, and gender on social and behavioral ratings within the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Full Publication link:

Harrison, A.J, Slane. M.M.*, Hoang, L.*, & Campbell, J.M. (2017). An International Review of Autism Knowledge Assessment Measures. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice. Advance online publication, 21(3) 262-275. DOI: 10.1177/1362361316638786

Johnson Harrison, A., Long, K.A., Manji, K.P. & Blane, K.K. (2016). Development of a brief behavioral intervention for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders in Tanzania. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 54(3), In Press.

Johnson Harrison, A., Slane. M.M., Hoang, L., & Campbell, J.M.  (2016). An International Review of Autism Knowledge Assessment Measures. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice. (ahead-of-print), 1-14. DOI: 10.1177/1362361316638786.

Johnson Harrison, A., Zimak, E., Sheinkopf, S.J., Manji, K. P., Morrow, E.M. (2014). Observation-centered approach to ASD assessment in Tanzania. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 52(5), 330-347.