Attentional Patterns to Emotional Faces Versus Scenes in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Farah Ghosn
  • Manuel Perea
  • Javier Castelló
  • Miguel Ángel Vázquez
  • Núria Yáñez
  • Inmaculada Marcos
  • Rosa Sahuquillo
  • Máximo Vento
  • Ana García-BlancoEmail author
Original Paper


Previous research has shown attentional biases in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) when processing distressing information. This study examined these attentional patterns as a function of the type of stimulus (scenes and faces) and the stimulus valence (happy, sad, threatening, neutral) using a within-subject design. A dot-probe was applied to ASD (n = 24) and typically developing (TD) children (n = 24). Results showed no differences between the groups for happy and sad stimuli. Critically, ASD children showed an attentional bias toward threatening scenes but away from threatening faces. Thus, the type of stimuli modulated the direction of attentional biases to distressing information in ASD children. These results are discussed in the framework of current theories on cognitive and emotional processing in ASD.


Autism spectrum disorders Childhood Attentional bias Emotional information Dot-probe task 



Ana García-Blanco was the recipient of a “Juan Rodés” fellowship (JR17/00003) and a grant (PI18/01352) from the Instituto Carlos III (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Innovation). We would like to acknowledge our colleagues Elena Serrano Lozano, Belén Almansa Tomás and Alba Moreno Giménez for their assistance at different stages of the research process.

Author Contributions

AGB and MP conceived of the study, participated in its design, coordination, data collection, statistical analyses and supervised manuscript editing. JC, MAV, NY, IM, and MV contributed to conception of the study, recruitment of participants, and data interpretation. RS and FG conceived of the study, participated in data collection and drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study was funded by a fellowship from a research institute ascribed to a national ministry.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

was obtained from all the parents of the participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Farah Ghosn
    • 1
  • Manuel Perea
    • 1
    • 2
  • Javier Castelló
    • 3
  • Miguel Ángel Vázquez
    • 3
  • Núria Yáñez
    • 3
  • Inmaculada Marcos
    • 3
  • Rosa Sahuquillo
    • 1
  • Máximo Vento
    • 3
    • 4
  • Ana García-Blanco
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of PsychologyUniversity of ValenciaValenciaSpain
  2. 2.Nebrija UniversityMadridSpain
  3. 3.University and Polytechnic Hospital La FeValenciaSpain
  4. 4.Health Research Institute La FeValenciaSpain

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