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Adults With Autism Find It Hard to Recognize Facial Clues

People with Autism See Faces Differently

New research suggests the way people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) gather information could explain why they gain different perceptions from peoples’ faces.

Investigators from the University of Montreal, however, say this difference in gathering of information is different from the judgment process itself.

“The evaluation of an individual’s face is a rapid process that influences our future relationship with the individual,” said Baudouin Forgeot d’Arc, Ph.D., lead author of the study.

“By studying these judgments, we wanted to better understand how people with ASD use facial features as cues. Do they need more cues to be able to make the same judgment?”

Researchers collaborated with a team from the Hôpital Robert-Debré in Paris, and studied 71 individuals, including a control group (n=38) and an ASD group (n=33), without intellectual disabilities.

The group was divided into aged-matched subgroups: children (mean age 10 years) and adults (mean age 33 years).

The researchers presented 36 pairs of photographic and synthetic images to the participants, and evaluated their social judgment by asking them to indicate which emotionally neutral faces appeared “kind” to them.

When photographic images of neutral faces were presented, the judgment of ASD participants was mixed compared to participants in the control group. That is, the choices of the ASD participants were not predictable from one subject to another.

However, the researchers found no difference between the groups when participants were presented with synthetic images. These images were created based on the characteristics of the photographic images previously shown.

Moreover, when the synthetic image pairs contained less useful judgment clues (less pronounced facial features), the results for the two groups were influenced in the same way by this difficulty.

Since each group viewed synthetic images in a similar manner, this suggests that it is not the judgment process itself that is different. That is, the differences observed when the autistic group viewed photographic images suggest the information-gathering process is critical.

“We now want to understand how the gathering of cues underpinning these judgments is different between people with or without ASD depending on whether they are viewing synthetic or photographic images.

“Ultimately, a better understanding of how people with ASD perceive and evaluate the social environment will allow us to better interact with them,” said Forgeot d’Arc.

Source: University of Montreal/EurekAlert

People with Autism See Faces Differently

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. (2015). People with Autism See Faces Differently. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 15, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/11/27/people-with-autism-see-faces-differently/77878.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.