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Autism Res. 2014 Feb;7(1):112-23. doi: 10.1002/aur.1351. Epub 2013 Dec 4.

Can adults with autism spectrum disorders infer what happened to someone from their emotional response?

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Nottingham.

Abstract

Can adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) infer what happened to someone from their emotional response? Millikan has argued that in everyday life, others' emotions are most commonly used to work out the antecedents of behavior, an ability termed retrodictive mindreading. As those with ASD show difficulties interpreting others' emotions, we predicted that these individuals would have difficulty with retrodictive mindreading. Sixteen adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome and 19 typically developing adults viewed 21 video clips of people reacting to one of three gifts (chocolate, monopoly money, or a homemade novelty) and then inferred what gift the recipient received and the emotion expressed by that person. Participants' eye movements were recorded while they viewed the videos. Results showed that participants with ASD were only less accurate when inferring who received a chocolate or homemade gift. This difficulty was not due to lack of understanding what emotions were appropriate in response to each gift, as both groups gave consistent gift and emotion inferences significantly above chance (genuine positive for chocolate and feigned positive for homemade). Those with ASD did not look significantly less to the eyes of faces in the videos, and looking to the eyes did not correlate with accuracy on the task. These results suggest that those with ASD are less accurate when retrodicting events involving recognition of genuine and feigned positive emotions, and challenge claims that lack of attention to the eyes causes emotion recognition difficulties in ASD.

© 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

KEYWORDS:

autism; eye tracking; face processing; retrodictive mindreading; spontaneous emotion recognition

PMID:
24307231
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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