Reduced Prioritization of Facial Threat in ASD
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Threat perception involves the rapid detection of potentially harmful stimuli within the environment. Typically developing (TD) individuals demonstrate a robust “threat superiority effect,” in which they detect threatening stimuli amongst nonthreatening stimuli faster and with greater accuracy than vice versa (for a review, see LoBue and Rakison 2013). The prioritization of threatening stimuli is adaptive, facilitates biological readiness and self-protection, and occurs for dangers that are both ancient (e.g., snakes) and more modern (e.g., guns). People, of course, can also be a source of threat and not surprisingly threatening emotional expressions such as anger, and even threatening faces lacking emotion like those that are hypermasculine and perceived as aggressive (Shasteen et al. 2015) are detected more quickly and with more accuracy by TD individuals than are nonthreatening faces (Pinkham et al. 2010).