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J Neuropsychol. 2008 Mar;2(Pt 1):47-64.

Exploring face perception in disorders of development: evidence from Williams syndrome and autism.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK.


Individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) and autism are characterized by different social phenotypes but have been said to show similar atypicalities of face-processing style. Although the structural encoding of faces may be similarly atypical in these two developmental disorders, there are clear differences in overall face skills. The inclusion of both populations in the same study can address how the profile of face skills varies across disorders. The current paper explored the processing of identity, eye-gaze, lipreading, and expressions of emotion using the same participants across face domains. The tasks had previously been used to make claims of a modular structure to face perception in typical development. Participants with WS (N=15) and autism (N=20) could be dissociated from each other, and from individuals with general developmental delay, in the domains of eye-gaze and expression processing. Individuals with WS were stronger at these skills than individuals with autism. Even if the structural encoding of faces appears similarly atypical in these groups, the overall profile of face skills, as well as the underlying architecture of face perception, varies greatly. The research provides insights into typical and atypical models of face perception in WS and autism.

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