Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 87–100 | Cite as

Asperger’s Syndrome and the Decoding of Boredom, Interest, and Disagreement from Body Posture

  • John P. Doody
  • Peter Bull
Original Paper


Twenty Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) participants were compared with 20 matched neurotypical controls in their decoding of postural cues of boredom, interest, and disagreement. On a nonverbal matching task, the AS group performed as accurately as the controls, whereas on a verbal labeling task, AS participants made significantly more mistakes in labeling bored postures. Response times of the AS group were significantly slower than controls in their judgments of all three attitudes on both tasks, with the exception only of disagreeing postures on the verbal labeling task. It was hypothesized that these slower response times may reflect a feature-based cognitive processing style by AS participants. Proposed practical recommendations are to train AS individuals in the recognition of boredom, and to improve the speed with which they can recognize different attitudes.


Asperger’s Syndrome Autism Body posture Body perception Boredom 


  1. Adolphs, R., Sears, L., & Piven, J. (2001). Abnormal processing of social information from faces in autism. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 13, 232–240.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th edn.)-TR. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association Press.Google Scholar
  3. Ashwin, C., Wheelwright, S., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2006). Attention bias to faces in Asperger syndrome: A pictorial emotion stroop study. Psychological Medicine, 36, 835–843.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Atkinson, A. P. (2009). Impaired recognition of emotions from body movements is associated with elevated motion coherence thresholds in autism spectrum disorders. Neuropsychologia, 47, 3023–3029.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baron-Cohen, S. (1995). Mindblindness: An essay on autism and theory of mind. Boston: MIT Press/Bradford Books.Google Scholar
  6. Baron-Cohen, S., Jolliffe, T., Mortimore, C., & Robertson, M. (1997). Another advanced test of theory of mind: Evidence from very high functioning adults with autism or Asperger syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38, 813–822.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Behrmann, M., Avidan, G., Leonard, G. L., Kimchi, R., Luna, B., Humphreys, K., et al. (2006). Configural processing in autism and its relationship to face processing. Neuropsychologia, 44, 110–129.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Betts, S. W., Betts, D. E., & Gerber-Eckard, L. N. (2007). Asperger syndrome in the inclusive classroom: Advice and strategies for teachers. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.Google Scholar
  9. Bull, P. (1987). Posture and gesture. Oxford: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  10. Carrington, S., & Graham, L. (1999). Asperger’s syndrome: Learner characteristics and teaching strategies. Special Education Perspectives, 8(2), 15–23.Google Scholar
  11. Clements, J., & Zarkowska, E. (2000). Behavioural concerns and autistic spectrum disorders: Explanations and strategies for change. London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  12. Ekman, P. (1992a). Are there basic emotions? Psychological Review, 99, 550–553.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ekman, P. (1992b). An argument for basic emotions. Cognition & Emotion, 6(3), 169–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ekman, P. (1994). Strong evidence for universals in facial expressions: A reply to Russell’s mistaken critique. Psychological Bulletin, 115(2), 268–287.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ekman, P. (1999). Basic emotions. In T. Dalgleish & M. Power (Eds.), Handbook of cognition and emotion (pp. 45–60). Sussex, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
  16. Folstein, S. E. (2006). The clinical spectrum of autism. Clinical Neuroscience Research, 6, 113–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Frank, M. G., & Stennett, J. (2001). The forced-choice paradigm and the perception of facial expressions of emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(1), 75–85.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frith, U., & Happé, F. (1994). Language and communication in autistic disorders. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B, 346, 97–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gillberg, C., Cederlund, M., Lamberg, K., & Zeijlon, L. (2006). The autism epidemic. The registered prevalence of autism in a Swedish urban area. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 429–434.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Golan, O., Baron-Cohen, S., & Hill, J. (2006). The Cambridge mindreading (CAM) face-voice battery: Testing complex emotion recognition in adults with and without Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(2), 169–183.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grossman, J. B., Klin, A., Carter, A. S., & Volkmar, F. R. (2000). Verbal bias in recognition of facial emotions in children with Asperger syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 41, 369–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hadjikhani, N., Joseph, R. M., Manoach, D. S., Naik, P., Snyder, J., Dominick, K., et al. (2009). Body expressions of emotion do not trigger fear contagion in autism spectrum disorder. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 4(1), 70–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Happé, F. (1994). An advanced test of theory of mind: Understanding of story characters’ thoughts and feelings by able autistic, mentally handicapped, and normal children and adults. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24, 129–154.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Happé, F. (1995). The role of age and verbal ability in the theory of mind task performance of subjects with autism. Child Development, 66(3), 843–855.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hawkins, G. (2004). How to find work that works for people with Asperger’s syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.Google Scholar
  26. Hobson, R. P., Ouston, J., & Lee, A. (1988). What’s in a face? The case of autism. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 79, 441–453.Google Scholar
  27. Hubert, B., Wicker, B., Moore, D. G., Monfardini, E., Duverger, H., Da Fonseca, D., et al. (2007). Recognition of emotional and non-emotional biological motion in individuals with autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1386–1392.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kätsyri, J., Saalasti, S., Tiippana, K., von Wendt, L., & Sams, M. (2008). Impaired recognition of facial emotions from low-spatial frequencies in Asperger syndrome. Neuropsychologia, 46, 1888–1897.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kleinman, J., Marciano, P. L., & Ault, R. L. (2001). Advanced theory of mind in high-functioning adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 29–36.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Klin, A. (2006). Autism and Asperger syndrome: An overview. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 28(1), 3–11.Google Scholar
  31. Krug, D. A., & Arick, J. R. (2003). Krug Asperger’s disorder index. Austin, Texas: Pro-Ed Inc.Google Scholar
  32. Lindner, J. L., & Rosén, L. A. (2006). Decoding of emotion through facial expression, prosody and verbal content in children and adolescents with Asperger’s syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 769–777.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McKinnon, M. C., & Moscovitch, M. (2007). Domain-general contributions to social reasoning: Theory of mind and deontic reasoning re-explored. Cognition, 102, 179–218.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Miller, J. N., & Ozonoff, S. (2000). The external validity of Asperger disorder: Lack of evidence from the domain of neuropsychology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 227–238.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Moore, D. G. (1997). Components of person perception: An investigation with autistic, non-autistic retarded and typically developing children and adolescents. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 15, 401–423.Google Scholar
  36. Painter, K. K. (2006). Social skills groups for children and adolescents with Asperger’s syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.Google Scholar
  37. Parron, C., Da Fonseca, D., Santos, A., Moore, D. G., Monfardini, E., & Deruelle, C. (2008). Recognition of biological motion in children with autistic spectrum disorders. Autism, 12(3), 261–274.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pasch, M., & Poppe, R. W. (2007). Person or puppet? The role of stimulus realism in attributing emotion to static body postures. In Proceedings of the conference on affective computing and intelligent interaction (ACII), 12–14 September 2007, Lecture Notes in Computer Science: Vol. 4738 (pp. 83–94). Lisbon, Portugal: Springer.Google Scholar
  39. Philip, R. C. M., Whalley, H., Stanfield, A. C., Sprengelmeyer, R., Santos, I. M., Young, A. W., et al. (2010). Deficits in facial, body movement and vocal emotional processing in autism spectrum disorders. Psychological Medicine, 40(11), 1919–1929.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pohlig, R. L. (2008). Nonverbal sensitivity in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Poster session presented at the annual International Meeting for Autism Research, London.Google Scholar
  41. Reed, C. L., Beall, P. M., Stone, V. E., Kopelioff, L., Pulham, D. J., & Hepburn, S. L. (2007). Perception of body posture—what individuals with autism spectrum disorder might be missing. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1576–1584.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Reynolds, C. R., Pearson, N. A., & Voress, J. K. (2002). Developmental test of visual perception–adolescent and adult. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.Google Scholar
  43. Roid, G. H. (2003). Stanford-Binet intelligence scales (5th ed.). Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.Google Scholar
  44. Rondan, C., & Deruelle, C. (2007). Global and configural visual processing in adults with autism and Asperger syndrome. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 28, 197–206.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Russell, J. A. (1993). Forced-choice response in the study of facial expression. Motivation and Emotion, 17, 41–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Russell, J. A. (1994). Is there universal recognition of emotion from facial expressions? A review of the cross-cultural studies. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 102–141.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rutherford, M. D., Baron-Cohen, S., & Wheelwright, S. (2002). Reading the mind in the voice: A study with normal adults and adults with Asperger’s syndrome and high functioning autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 189–194.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Scheuffgen, K., Happé, F., Anderson, M., & Frith, U. (2000). High “intelligence”, low “IQ”? Speed of processing and measured IQ in children with autism. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 83–90.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wallace, S., Coleman, M., & Bailey, A. (2008). An investigation of basic facial expression recognition in autism spectrum disorders. Cognition and Emotion, 22(7), 1353–1380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Winters, A. (2005). Perceptions of body posture and emotion: A question of methodology. The New School Psychology Bulletin, 3, 35–45.Google Scholar
  51. Woodcock, R. W., Schrank, F. A., Mather, N., & McGrew, K. S. (2007). Woodcock-Johnson III tests of achievement, Form C/Brief Battery. Rolling Meadows, IL: Riverside Publishing.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK

Personalised recommendations