Recent research has shown that adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulty interpreting others' emotional responses, in order to work out what actually happened to them. It is unclear what underlies this difficulty; important cues may be missed from fast paced dynamic stimuli, or spontaneous emotional responses may be too complex for those with ASD to successfully recognise. To explore these possibilities, 17 adolescents and adults with ASD and 17 neurotypical controls viewed 21 videos and pictures of peoples' emotional responses to gifts (chocolate, a handmade novelty or Monopoly money), then inferred what gift the person received and the emotion expressed by the person while eye movements were measured. Participants with ASD were significantly more accurate at distinguishing who received a chocolate or homemade gift from static (compared to dynamic) stimuli, but significantly less accurate when inferring who received Monopoly money from static (compared to dynamic) stimuli. Both groups made similar emotion attributions to each gift in both conditions (positive for chocolate, feigned positive for homemade and confused for Monopoly money). Participants with ASD only made marginally significantly fewer fixations to the eyes of the face, and face of the person than typical controls in both conditions. Results suggest adolescents and adults with ASD can distinguish subtle emotion cues for certain emotions (genuine from feigned positive) when given sufficient processing time, however, dynamic cues are informative for recognising emotion blends (e.g. smiling in confusion). This indicates difficulties processing complex emotion responses in ASD.
Bibliographical noteThis is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
- autism spectrum disorders
- face perception
- eye tracking
- spontaneous emotion recognition
- retrodictive mindreading
- social cognition
- multi-modal processing
- visual auditory integration
Cassidy, S., Mitchell, P., Chapman, P., & Ropar, D. (2015). Processing of Spontaneous Emotional Responses in Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Effect of Stimulus Type. Autism Research, 8(5), 534-544. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.1468