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Adults With Autism Find It Hard to Recognize Facial Clues

Adults With Autism Find It Hard to Recognize Facial Clues

A new study finds that adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often struggle when they need to use facial clues to help perform a task.

Investigators from Brunel University London, found that while adults with ASD are able to recognize static faces, they are challenged when a task requires them to discriminate between sequences of facial motion or to use facial motion as a cue to identity.

This may result in difficulty recognizing social cues, unfamiliar people or even someone’s gender.

The research supports previous evidence to suggest that impairments in perceiving biological motion more generally may underlie difficulties in social interaction. Some have suggested that poor attention skills are at the root of the problem.

“Existing studies have suggested that biological motion deficits are accountable for impairment in social cognition, but there has been little investigation of facial motion when discussing adults with ASD,” said psychologist Dr. Justin O’Brien, one of the authors of the study.

“Our data indicates that people with ASD are unable to pick up on changing visual information that informs their judgment of someone’s identity or emotional state, and that this could contribute to difficulties in social interaction.”

Researchers followed 14 participants, each high-functioning individuals with ASD, who were asked to watch motion captured from actors and applied to a three-dimensional face.

The moving images were then used to investigate whether the participants could perceive and discriminate facial motion.

Researchers hope the findings will improve ther understanding of how and why adults with ASD have social and communication issues.

Source: Brunel University/EurekAlert

Adults With Autism Find It Hard to Recognize Facial Clues

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Adults With Autism Find It Hard to Recognize Facial Clues. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 25, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.