Are children with Autism Spectrum Disorder sensitive to the different emotions underlying posed and genuine smiles?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Facial expressions are a useful source of information about the emotional state of others. However, facial expressions do not always correspond with an underlying emotional state. It is advantageous for perceivers to be able to differentiate between those expressions that are associated with a corresponding emotional state (genuine expressions) and those which are not associated with underlying emotions (posed expressions). The present study investigated the sensitivity of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and age and sex-matched control children to the different emotions underlying posed and genuine smiles. The first task required participants to listen to 12 emotion eliciting stories and select, from a grid of 4 facial expressions (a genuine smile, a posed smile, a neutral expression and a sad expression) that which matched how the target in the story would feel. Children with ASD correctly matched facial expressions and stories than did participants without ASD. The second task required children to look at a series of faces, each displaying either a posed smile, a genuine smile or a neutral expression and indicate whether each target was or was not happy. Participants with ASD were less sensitive both to the underlying emotional state of the targets and to the difference between posed and genuine smiles than were the control participants. Results are discussed in terms of the social deficits symptomatic of ASD.