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Brief Report: Is Impaired Classification of Subtle Facial Expressions in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Related to Atypical Emotion Category Boundaries?

Abstract

Impairments in recognizing subtle facial expressions, in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), may relate to difficulties in constructing prototypes of these expressions. Eighteen children with predominantly intellectual low-functioning ASD (LFA, IQ <80) and two control groups (mental and chronological age matched), were assessed for their ability to classify emotional faces, of high, medium and low intensities, as happy or angry. For anger, the LFA group made more errors for lower intensity expressions than the control groups, classifications did not differ for happiness. This is the first study to find that the LFA group made more across-valence errors than controls. These data are consistent with atypical facial expression processing in ASD being associated with differences in the structure of emotion categories.

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Acknowledgments

A University of Essex Studentship to the first author supported this study.

Author Contibutions

DR and LRW were involved in the design, data collection, analysis and initial draft of the manuscript. AS was involved in further drafts of the manuscript prior to submitting the manuscript for peer review.

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Correspondence to Lydia R. Whitaker.

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Whitaker, L.R., Simpson, A. & Roberson, D. Brief Report: Is Impaired Classification of Subtle Facial Expressions in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Related to Atypical Emotion Category Boundaries?. J Autism Dev Disord 47, 2628–2634 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3174-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3174-5

Keywords

  • Facial expression
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Intensity
  • Children
  • Categorization
  • Emotion