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Front Psychol. 2013 Jun 26;4:376. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00376. eCollection 2013.

Face puzzle-two new video-based tasks for measuring explicit and implicit aspects of facial emotion recognition.

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Cluster of Excellence "Languages of Emotion", Freie Universität Berlin Berlin, Germany ; Department of Education and Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin Berlin, Germany.


Recognizing others' emotional states is crucial for effective social interaction. While most facial emotion recognition tasks use explicit prompts that trigger consciously controlled processing, emotional faces are almost exclusively processed implicitly in real life. Recent attempts in social cognition suggest a dual process perspective, whereby explicit and implicit processes largely operate independently. However, due to differences in methodology the direct comparison of implicit and explicit social cognition has remained a challenge. Here, we introduce a new tool to comparably measure implicit and explicit processing aspects comprising basic and complex emotions in facial expressions. We developed two video-based tasks with similar answer formats to assess performance in respective facial emotion recognition processes: Face Puzzle, implicit and explicit. To assess the tasks' sensitivity to atypical social cognition and to infer interrelationship patterns between explicit and implicit processes in typical and atypical development, we included healthy adults (NT, n = 24) and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD, n = 24). Item analyses yielded good reliability of the new tasks. Group-specific results indicated sensitivity to subtle social impairments in high-functioning ASD. Correlation analyses with established implicit and explicit socio-cognitive measures were further in favor of the tasks' external validity. Between group comparisons provide first hints of differential relations between implicit and explicit aspects of facial emotion recognition processes in healthy compared to ASD participants. In addition, an increased magnitude of between group differences in the implicit task was found for a speed-accuracy composite measure. The new Face Puzzle tool thus provides two new tasks to separately assess explicit and implicit social functioning, for instance, to measure subtle impairments as well as potential improvements due to social cognitive interventions.


autism spectrum disorder; emotion recognition; explicit; faces; implicit; social cognition

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