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Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is characterised by atypical social behaviours, such as gaze aversion. However, it remains unclear whether, or if so how, these behaviours affect cognitive processing and influence memory. We asked children with FXS (N = 16) and typically developing children (TD; N = 46) to explore naturalistic scenes containing social and non-social salient items unrelated to their task at hand (searching for a simple target object). We also assessed children's memory for target locations. We complemented behavioural responses with eye-tracking data for the subset of participants who managed to comply with calibration and the demands of the experimental testing session (6 children with FXS and 43 TD children). Children with FXS performed well at the experimental task, and showed similar accuracy and speed in locating targets in natural scenes to children of equivalent verbal abilities. They also learned target locations over blocks, but their memory of target locations was not as precise as that of comparison children. In addition, children with FXS initially directed few first looks to salient social items within the scenes, but these looks increased over blocks. Like TD children, children with FXS also dwelled gaze upon social items while recalling target locations from memory. Individual differences in everyday social characteristics also related to gaze and behavioural measures. In conclusion, experimental approaches can highlight cognitive underpinnings of atypical social behaviour in FXS, pinpointing both similarities and differences to TD individuals.

Original publication




Journal article


Res Dev Disabil

Publication Date





Attention, Eye-tracking, Fragile X syndrome, Learning, Memory, Social behaviours