Research on facial emotion expression recognition could change our understanding of autism Psychology and Psychiatry News

There is a common perception that people with autism cannot recognize the emotions of others and have little idea how effectively they do so.

But autistic adults are only slightly less accurate at reading people’s facial emotions compared to their non-autistic peers, new research from Australia has found.

Recent research published in two articles in the leading international journal autism research shows that we may need to revise widely accepted notions that adults diagnosed with autism have difficulty recognizing social emotions and have little information about their processing of the facial emotions of others.

63 people diagnosed with autism and 67 non-autistic adults (with IQs ranging from 85 to 143) took part in a Flinders University study, with participants taking part in 3-5 hour sessions comparing their recognition of 12 emotional expressions of the human face such as anger and sadness.

Dr Marie Georgopoulos collected a wide range of data during her PhD, with subsequent re-analyses by the research team providing the basis for a series of research papers.

The findings could mean that autism-related social difficulties may in fact reflect differences that only become apparent in certain social interactions or high-pressure scenarios, challenging the perspective that adults with autism cannot read words well. expressions of facial emotions.

Study co-author and Matthew Flinders Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Neil Brewer, says that by displaying a wide range of emotions, presented in different ways, this study suggests that people with autism are, on average, only slightly less accurate, but at the same time a bit slower when classifying other people’s emotions.

“These findings challenge the notion that adults with autism are more likely to be overwhelmed by increasingly dynamic or complex emotional stimuli and to experience difficulty recognizing specific emotions. »

There was considerable overlap in performance between the two groups, with only a very small subgroup of autistic individuals performing lower than their non-autistic peers.

Differences between groups were consistent regardless of how the emotions were presented, the nature of the response required, or the particular emotion examined.

The research also showed that although there was considerable variability in terms of individuals’ insight into their interpretation of others’ emotions, there was no evidence of differences between autistic and non-autistic samples.

“The sophisticated methodologies used in these studies not only help refine our understanding of emotional processing in autism, but also provide new demonstrations of the hitherto unrecognized abilities of people with autism. »

“Further advances will likely require us to harness behaviors associated with emotion recognition and reactions to others’ emotions in real-world interactions or perhaps in virtual reality settings. »

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Research on facial emotion expression recognition could change our understanding of autism Psychology and Psychiatry News

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