International Meeting for Autism Research: Prosopagnosia In Children with High Functioning Autism: An Exploratory Study

Prosopagnosia In Children with High Functioning Autism: An Exploratory Study

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
1:00 PM
X. Qian, S. L. Corrow and A. Yonas, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

A number of studies have demonstrated that children with ASD showed pronounced deficits in face recognition (FR) (Langdell, 1978; Klin et al., 1999). Klin and colleagues found significant difference in FR performance between children with autism and the non-PDD group.

Another condition related to FR is known as prosopagnosia, a selective deficit in learning and recognizing faces (Duchaine & Nakayama, 2006). It is thought that prosopagnosia may be linked with ASD because the lack of social interest in children with ASD may prevent them from opportunities of learning about faces (Grüter, Grüter, & Carbon, 2008). To date, few studies have been conducted to examine FR in children with high functioning autism (HFA) using measures designed to identify prosopagnosia. 


The purpose of this study is to assess FR ability in children with HFA (a) using the Cambridge Face Memory test (CFMT) (Duchaine & Nakayama, 2006) and Reading the Mind in the Eyes (child version, Baron-Cohen, et al., 2001) and (b) including HFA group (n=8) and a group of typically developing children (n=48) matched on chronological age and IQ.



Group 1 Consisted of 8 participants with an average age of 8.7 years old (sd = 0.49). These participants were recruited from an autism clinic and all met ADOS autism cutoffs with average or above average IQ.

Group 2 Consisted of 48 typically developing children (M= 8.29, sd = 0.12) who were matched on chronological age and IQ.


Cambridge Face Memory Test. In this task, participants were introduced to 6 faces and then tested with forced-choice items consisting of three test faces, one face being the target face. Duchaine and Nakayama reported that CFMT could classify 75% adults with prosopagnosia correctly.  

Reading the Mind in the Eyes. In this task, participants were asked to look at photographs of the eye region of a face, and select one of the four words that best describes what the person in the photograph might be thinking or feeling. Baron and Cohen reported that that children with ASD scored significantly lower compared to the control group.


Children in the non-HFA group scored 79 on average on CFMT (sd = 18.9). The range of CFMT scores of HFA group is 52-75(M = 67.1, sd = 9.2). On the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, most participants in HFA group (M = 15, sd = 9.2) scored within average range of the mean CFMT score (M = 18.9, sd = 3.2) obtained from the non-HFA group. Also, when parents were asked if their child has problems in face recognition, 6 out of 8 parents reported yes.


This study provides preliminary evidence that it is likely some children with autism may also suffer from prosopagnosia. Further, the results suggest that eye test alone is not sufficient to differentiate HFA and prosopagnosia. More assessments need to be developed to discriminate these two disorders in children.

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