Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 12, pp 3838–3843

Brief Report: Seeing the Man in the Moon: Do Children with Autism Perceive Pareidolic Faces? A Pilot Study

  • Christian Ryan
  • Martina Stafford
  • Robert James King
Brief Report

DOI: 10.1007/s10803-016-2927-x

Cite this article as:
Ryan, C., Stafford, M. & King, R.J. J Autism Dev Disord (2016) 46: 3838. doi:10.1007/s10803-016-2927-x


Faces are one of the most socially significant visual stimuli encountered in the environment, whereas pareidolias are illusions of faces arising from ambiguous stimuli in the environment. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterised by deficits in response to social stimuli. We found that children with ASD (n = 60) identify significantly fewer pareidolic faces in a sequence of ambiguous stimuli than typically developing peers. The two groups did not differ in the number of objects identified, indicating that the children with ASD had a specific lack of attention to faces. Pareidolia have considerable potential as naturalistic and easy-to-create materials for the investigation of spontaneous attention to social stimuli in children with ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder Face perception Social attention Protofacial stimuli Pareidolia 

Supplementary material

10803_2016_2927_MOESM1_ESM.docx (52 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 51 KB)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology Department, North Lee ASD ServiceCOPE FoundationCorkIreland
  2. 2.School of Applied PsychologyUniversity CollegeCorkIreland

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