Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)2:00 PM
Background: Previous research into emotion recognition skills in autism has proved highly contradictory. High functioning adults with autism have been shown to pass some emotion recognition tasks using posed static expressions (e.g. Spezio et al. (2007); Neuman et al. (2006)), whereas more naturalistic tasks have revealed more pronounced emotion recognition impairment (e.g. Baron-Cohen et al. 1995; 2001). No previous research has addressed emotion recognition skills in real life social interchanges, where individuals with autism most likely experience emotion recognition difficulties. Objectives: The current study investigated adults with autism's ability to recognize emotions in context, using spontaneous expressions elicited during a social interaction. Methods: 19 Adults with autism and 19 age and IQ matched controls watched video clips of spontaneous expressions, then judged what situation the person reacted to and the emotion of the person. Results: Participants with autism were impaired relative to controls in correctly inferring what situation elicited the emotion response. This impairment was due to impairment in correctly inferring emotion. However the participants with autism gave situation responses congruent with emotion to the same extent as typically developing controls. Conclusions: Results suggest that although adults with autism are impaired at inferring emotion and context from spontaneous dynamic expressions, understanding of what behaviors are appropriate to different social contexts is relatively unimpaired. These results stress the importance of using tasks more representative of social interaction in everyday life in order to better understand the impaired and unimpaired aspects of emotion understanding in autism.