Why do people with autism see faces differently?

November 26, 2014
autism
Quinn, an autistic boy, and the line of toys he made before falling asleep. Repeatedly stacking or lining up objects is a behavior commonly associated with autism. Credit: Wikipedia.

The way people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) gather information - not the judgement process itself - might explain why they gain different perceptions from peoples' faces, according to a new study from Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies and the University of Montreal. "The evaluation of an individual's face is a rapid process that influences our future relationship with the individual," said Baudouin Forgeot d'Arc, lead author of the study. "By studying these judgments, we wanted to better understand how people with ASD use facial features as cues. Do they need more cues to be able to make the same judgment?"

The study was conducted in collaboration with a team from the Hôpital Robert-Debré in Paris, who recruited 71 individuals, including a control group (n=38) and an ASD group (n=33), without intellectual disabilities. The group was divided into aged-matched subgroups: children (mean age 10 years) and adults (mean age 33 years) The researchers presented 36 pairs of photographic and synthetic images to the , and evaluated their social judgment by asking them to indicate which emotionally neutral faces appeared "kind" to them.

When of neutral faces were presented, the judgment of ASD participants was mixed compared to participants in the - the choices of the ASD participants were not predictable from one subject to another. However, the researchers found no difference between the groups when participants were presented with synthetic images, which were nevertheless created based on the characteristics of the photographic images previously shown. Moreover, when the synthetic image pairs contained less useful judgment clues (less pronounced ), the results for the two groups were influenced in the same way by this difficulty.

The identical results of the two groups when they viewed synthetic images suggest that it is not the judgment process itself that is different: judging whether a person seems "kinder" than another can be accomplished similarly in participants with or without ASD. However, the differences observed when they viewed photographic images suggest that the way they gather information about people's faces is critical.

"We now want to understand how the gathering of cues underpinning these judgments is different between people with or without ASD depending on whether they are viewing synthetic or photographic images. Ultimately, a better understanding of how people with ASD perceive and evaluate the social environment will allow us to better interact with them," said Forgeot d'Arc.

Explore further: Facial motion a clue to difficulties in social interaction among autistic adults

Related Stories

Facial motion a clue to difficulties in social interaction among autistic adults

November 13, 2014
People on the autistic spectrum may struggle to recognise social cues, unfamiliar people or even someone's gender because of an inability to interpret changing facial expressions, new research has found.

Speech disrupts facial attention in six-month-olds who later develop autism

February 4, 2014
From birth, infants naturally show a preference for human contact and interaction, including faces and voices. These basic predispositions to social stimuli are altered in individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders ...

Siblings of children with autism can show signs at 18 months

October 16, 2014
About 20% of younger siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will develop the condition by age 3. A new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers has found that 57% of these younger siblings who later ...

Brainwave test could improve autism diagnosis and classification

September 22, 2014
A new study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University suggests that measuring how fast the brain responds to sights and sounds could help in objectively classifying people on the autism spectrum ...

Eye-tracking reveals variability in successful social strategies for children with autism

February 27, 2012
In a study published in the March 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Katherine Rice and colleagues, from the Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and Emory ...

Patients with autism spectrum disorder are not sensitive to 'being imitated'

August 5, 2014
A Japanese research group led by Prof Norihiro Sadato, a professor of the National Institute for Physiological Sciences (NIPS), National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS), has found that people with autism spectrum disorders ...

Recommended for you

Autism therapy: Brain stimulation restores social behavior in mice

December 13, 2017
Scientists are examining the feasibility of treating autistic children with neuromodulation after a new study showed social impairments can be corrected by brain stimulation.

Social phobia linked to autism and schizophrenia

December 11, 2017
New Swinburne research shows that people who find social situations difficult tend to have similar brain responses to those with schizophrenia or autism.

Odors that carry social cues seem to affect volunteers on the autism spectrum differently

November 27, 2017
Autism typically involves the inability to read social cues. We most often associate this with visual difficulty in interpreting facial expression, but new research at the Weizmann Institute of Science suggests that the sense ...

Video game improves balance in youth with autism

November 21, 2017
Playing a video game that rewards participants for holding various "ninja" poses could help children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) improve their balance, according to a recent study in the Journal of Autism ...

Potential new autism drug shows promise in mice

November 14, 2017
Scientists have performed a successful test of a possible new drug in a mouse model of an autism disorder. The candidate drug, called NitroSynapsin, largely corrected electrical, behavioral and brain abnormalities in the ...

Relational factors in music therapy can contribute to positive outcome for children with autism

November 6, 2017
It might not surprise that good relationships create good outcomes, as meaningful relational experiences are crucial to all of us in our everyday life. However, the development of a relationship with a child with autism may ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.