Brief Report

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 574-580

Brief Report: Perception of Genuine and Posed Smiles by Individuals with Autism

  • Zillah L. BorastonAffiliated withBehavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London Email author 
  • , Ben CordenAffiliated withBehavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London
  • , Lynden K. MilesAffiliated withUniversity of Canterbury
  • , David H. SkuseAffiliated withBehavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London
  • , Sarah-Jayne BlakemoreAffiliated withInstitute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London

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Abstract

Individuals with autism are impaired in the recognition of fear, which may be due to their reduced tendency to look at the eyes. Here we investigated another potential perceptual and social consequence of reduced eye fixation. The eye region of the face is critical for identifying genuine, or sincere, smiles. We therefore investigated this ability in adults with autism. We used eye-tracking to measure gaze behaviour to faces displaying posed and genuine smiles. Adults with autism were impaired on the posed/genuine smile task and looked at the eyes significantly less than did controls. Also, within the autism group, task performance correlated with social interaction ability. We conclude that reduced eye contact in autism leads to reduced ability to discriminate genuine from posed smiles with downstream effects on social interaction.

Keywords

Asperger syndrome Social cognition Face processing Smile Eye-tracking