Objectives: To test the relationship between severity of functioning, systemising strengths and performance on an emotion recognition task with human and non-human stimuli in individuals with and without ASD.
Methods: 21 children with ASD and a comparable number of children without ASD aged 11-15 were recruited from local specialist and mainstream schools respectively. The groups were matched for age, verbal IQ and sex. All the children completed the short-version Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS-short), the Systemising Quotient (SQ), the Empathising Quotient (EQ) and an emotion recognition task with human and non-human stimuli.
Results: Severity of social functioning, as measured by the SRS-short and EQ, showed significant correlations with overall performance on the emotion task for both the ASD and control groups, in the direction expected. However, another finding was a significant positive correlation between SQ and emotion task scores for the ASD group. Additionally, the ASD group performed equally as well as controls on the emotion task. Further analysis showed that these results may be attributable to reduced, although non-significant, performance across all human stimuli and significantly better performance across all non-human stimuli in the ASD group. Performance was unrelated to verbal IQ.
Conclusions: Overall, the findings suggest that both severity of functioning and systemising ability in ASD is related to the ability to recognise emotions. Whilst controls show difficulties in recognition of non-human stimuli, individuals with ASD do not show the same detrimental effect. This may be explained by a reduced salience to human stimuli and/or compensatory mechanisms in processing features by the ASD group, which in turn may be related to systemising ability.
See more of: Cognition and Behavior
See more of: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Phenotype