Biological Theory

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 344–356 | Cite as

Autism’s Direct Cause? Failure of Infant-Mother Eye Contact in a Complex Adaptive System



This article attempts to show why an experimental hypothesis is plausible and merits testing; in brief, the hypothesis is that autism begins with a failure in early learning and that changing the environment of early learning would dramatically change its incidence. Strong statistical evidence supporting this hypothesis has been published by Waldman et al. (2008), but to date this evidence has largely been ignored, perhaps because it challenges prevalent beliefs about autism. This article also suggests that the current epidemic of autism is serious enough, and intellectually mysterious enough, to merit attention from a wider community of brain scientists: New ideas are needed. A confirmation of this article’s hypothesis would have interesting implications for brain science.


autism spectrum disorder complex adaptive system complexity environmental trigger infant-mother eye contact intersubjectivity oxytocin self-organized smartphone television 


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Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New YorkUSA

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