Brief Report: Perception of Genuine and Posed Smiles by Individuals with Autism
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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.
KeywordsAsperger syndrome Social cognition Face processing Smile Eye-tracking
This study was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society. ZB is funded by the Wellcome Trust Four Year PhD Programme in Neuroscience at UCL. SJB is funded by the Royal Society UK. We would like to thank Rebecca Chilvers for conducting the ADOS interviews for this study.
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