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Metacognitive Awareness of Facial Affect in Higher-Functioning Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

Higher-functioning participants with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD) viewed a series of face stimuli, made decisions regarding the affect of each face, and indicated their confidence in each decision. Confidence significantly predicted accuracy across all participants, but this relation was stronger for participants with typical development than participants with ASD. In the hierarchical linear modeling analysis, there were no differences in face processing accuracy between participants with and without ASD, but participants with ASD were more confident in their decisions. These results suggest that individuals with ASD have metacognitive impairments and are overconfident in face processing. Additionally, greater metacognitive awareness was predictive of better face processing accuracy, suggesting that metacognition may be a pivotal skill to teach in interventions.

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Notes

  1. When deemed appropriate by the experimenter (e.g., participant had substantial attention difficulties), the experimenter controlled the computer mouse and paused the face stimulus presentation when requested by the participant.

  2. Although number of face segments revealed did not have a significant or marginally significant effect in Model 1, it was retained in the model due to its prior marginal significance in the model-building process.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), through Grant R01MH071273, and the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant DED-R305C050052. The authors thank Bridget Gamber, Annie Inge, Nicole Kojkowski, Leena Mohapatra, Crystal Noller, Agu Rossetti, Caley Schwartz, and Nicole Zahka for their contributions.

Authors Contributions

CM conceived of the study, led the execution of the study, performed the statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript; HH participated in the interpretation of the data, helped to draft the manuscript, and was co-PI of the NIMH grant that supported this study; LN participated in the design and coordination of the study and helped to draft the manuscript; MJ participated in the coordination of the study and helped to draft the manuscript; PM participated in the design of the study, helped to draft the manuscript, and was co-PI of the NIMH grant that supported this study.

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Correspondence to Camilla M. McMahon.

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This study was part of a larger study on self-monitoring in children and adolescents with ASD which was approved by the appropriate Institutional Review Board. Participants assented and parents consented to participation in the current study.

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McMahon, C.M., Henderson, H.A., Newell, L. et al. Metacognitive Awareness of Facial Affect in Higher-Functioning Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 46, 882–898 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-015-2630-3

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Keywords

  • Metacognition
  • Face processing
  • Autism
  • Overconfidence
  • Monitoring
  • Awareness