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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2000 Mar;41(3):369-79.

Verbal bias in recognition of facial emotions in children with Asperger syndrome.

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Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8205, USA.


Thirteen children and adolescents with diagnoses of Asperger syndrome (AS) were matched with 13 nonautistic control children on chronological age and verbal IQ. They were tested on their ability to recognize simple facial emotions, as well as facial emotions paired with matching, mismatching, or irrelevant verbal labels. There were no differences between the groups at recognizing simple emotions but the Asperger group performed significantly worse than the control group at recognizing emotions when faces were paired with mismatching words (but not with matching or irrelevant words). The results suggest that there are qualitative differences from nonclinical populations in how children with AS process facial expressions. When presented with a more demanding affective processing task, individuals with AS showed a bias towards visual-verbal over visual-affective information (i.e., words over faces). Thus, children with AS may be utilizing compensatory strategies, such as verbal mediation, to process facial expressions of emotion.

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