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Autism Res. 2008 Dec;1(6):329-40. doi: 10.1002/aur.56.

Specific impairment of face-processing abilities in children with autism spectrum disorder using the Let's Face It! skills battery.

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Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.


Although it has been well established that individuals with autism exhibit difficulties in their face recognition abilities, it has been debated whether this deficit reflects a category-specific impairment of faces or a general perceptual bias toward the local-level information in a stimulus. In this study, the Let's Face It! Skills Battery [Tanaka & Schultz, 2008] of developmental face- and object-processing measures was administered to a large sample of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and typically developing children. The main finding was that when matched for age and IQ, individuals with ASD were selectively impaired in their ability to recognize faces across changes in orientation, expression and featural information. In a face discrimination task, ASD participants showed a preserved ability to discriminate featural and configural information in the mouth region of a face, but were compromised in their ability to discriminate featural and configural information in the eyes. On object-processing tasks, ASD participants demonstrated a normal ability to recognize automobiles across changes in orientation and a superior ability to discriminate featural and configural information in houses. These findings indicate that the face-processing deficits in ASD are not due to a local-processing bias, but reflect a category-specific impairment of faces characterized by a failure to form view-invariant face representations and discriminate information in the eye region of the face.

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