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Autism. 2008 Nov;12(6):607-26. doi: 10.1177/1362361308097118.

Emotion recognition in faces and the use of visual context in young people with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.

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  • 1North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust, UK.


We compared young people with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) with age, sex and IQ matched controls on emotion recognition of faces and pictorial context. Each participant completed two tests of emotion recognition. The first used Ekman series faces. The second used facial expressions in visual context. A control task involved identifying occupations using visual context. The ability to recognize emotions in faces (with or without context) and the ability to identify occupations from context was positively correlated with both increasing age and IQ score. Neither a diagnosis of ASD nor a measure of severity (Autism Quotient score) affected these abilities, except that the participants with ASD were significantly worse at recognizing angry and happy facial expressions. Unlike the control group, most participants with ASD mirrored the facial expression before interpreting it. Test conditions may lead to results different from everyday life. Alternatively, deficits in emotion recognition in high-functioning ASD may be less marked than previously thought.

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