Objectives: We investigate face and emotion perception among children/adolescents with HFA using computer- and videotape-based tasks varying in the emotional cues provided. It is hypothesized that individuals with HFA will demonstrate relatively greater impairment when presented with increasingly dynamic emotional stimuli.
Methods: Children/adolescents with HFA are MA-matched to a TD sample (mean CA = 13.5 yrs; mean IQ = 96). Subtests from the Let’s Face It Assessment Battery (Tanaka & Low, 2001) are used to assess face identity/emotion recognition of static facial displays. The Awareness of Social Inference Test (TASIT; McDonald et al., 2003) is used to assess emotion recognition of more dynamic stimuli. Half the TASIT videos are presented without sound (nonverbal face/body cues only) and half with sound (nonverbal and “verbal” cues). Verbal content is emotionally neutral so that “verbal” cues consist only of affective prosody.
Results: Data collection is ongoing and results based on the complete data set will be presented. Preliminary results (based on 12 participants) suggest that, relative to the TD group, individuals with HFA are less accurate in perceiving face identity and emotion cues. Relatively greater discrepancies (between HFA and TD performance) are apparent on tasks involving emotion versus face recognition and dynamic versus static displays.
Conclusions: Individuals with HFA may experience relatively greater difficulty processing emotion versus face identity cues. Emotion cues may prove particularly difficult for individuals with HFA to interpret when presented in more dynamic social contexts (requiring the integration of multiple, transient cues). Implications for methodology and social information processing in autism will be discussed.