This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Exploring Adolescents’ Social Validity Ratings of Social Profiles: The Impact of Eye Contact




Anderson, Ashley

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Psychological Sciences

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Attending to the eyes of another person has an adaptive function demonstrated within the first few months of human life. Non-verbal transactions in the form of eye contact facilitate both cognitive and social development; however, individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders often display little or no eye contact during social exchanges. Deficits like these can lead to detrimental effects as individuals expand their social networks, especially in adolescence; however, little is known about how others perceive individuals with this deficit. Nuhu and Rapp (2020) identified three profiles during interviews with college students characterized by varying levels of eye contact, vocalizations, and body movement. They found participants typically emitted high levels of eye contact (i.e., above 80%) during social interactions. Subsequently, Bush et al. (2022) recreated the three social profiles with an actor and evaluated college students’ ratings of the actor in each profile. Their results indicated profiles with higher levels of eye contact received more favorable ratings than the lower eye contact profile. The current study replicated and extended their research by presenting the same profiles and assessments to two groups of adolescents, those from an urban high school (i.e., non-justice-involved youth) and those from a secure juvenile-justice facility (i.e., justice-involved youth). Findings indicate adolescents can distinguish variations in eye contact and judge speakers differently based on their perceptions. Implications and next steps are discussed.