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Autism. 2006 Jul;10(4):353-64.

Recognition of schematic facial displays of emotion in parents of children with autism.

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Centro Medico Parioli, Roma, Italy.


Performance on an emotional labeling task in response to schematic facial patterns representing five basic emotions without the concurrent presentation of a verbal category was investigated in 40 parents of children with autism and 40 matched controls. 'Autism fathers' performed worse than 'autism mothers', who performed worse than controls in decoding displays representing sadness or disgust. This indicates the need to include facial expression decoding tasks in genetic research of autism. In addition, emotional expression interactions between parents and their children with autism, particularly through play, where affect and prosody are 'physiologically' exaggerated, may stimulate development of social competence. Future studies could benefit from a combination of stimuli including photographs and schematic drawings, with and without associated verbal categories. This may allow the subdivision of patients and relatives on the basis of the amount of information needed to understand and process social-emotionally relevant information.

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