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Abnormal Use of Facial Information in High-Functioning Autism

Abstract

Altered visual exploration of faces likely contributes to social cognition deficits seen in autism. To investigate the relationship between face gaze and social cognition in autism, we measured both face gaze and how facial regions were actually used during emotion judgments from faces. Compared to IQ-matched healthy controls, nine high-functioning adults with autism failed to make use of information from the eye region of faces, instead relying primarily on information from the mouth. Face gaze accounted for the increased reliance on the mouth, and partially accounted for the deficit in using information from the eyes. These findings provide a novel quantitative assessment of how people with autism utilize information in faces when making social judgments.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the participants and their families for making this study possible, Dr Frédéric Gosselin for helpful advice in using the “Bubbles” method, and Dr Fulvia Castelli and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. We gratefully acknowledge the support of NIMH STAART Center funding and a grant from the Cure Autism Now Foundation.

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Correspondence to Ralph Adolphs.

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Spezio, M.L., Adolphs, R., Hurley, R.S.E. et al. Abnormal Use of Facial Information in High-Functioning Autism. J Autism Dev Disord 37, 929–939 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-006-0232-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-006-0232-9

Keywords

  • Social cognition
  • Emotion
  • Eyetracking
  • Bubbles
  • Facial information