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Alexithymia, Not Autism, Predicts Poor Recognition of Emotional Facial Expressions

Cook, R., Brewer, R., Shah, P. and Bird, G. (2013). Alexithymia, Not Autism, Predicts Poor Recognition of Emotional Facial Expressions. PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE, 24(5), pp. 723-732. doi: 10.1177/0956797612463582

Abstract

Considerable research has sought to determine whether face perception is impaired in autism. Clear answers have, however, proved elusive. The present study sought to determine whether comorbid alexithymia (characterized by difficulties interpreting emotional states) may be responsible for face perception deficits previously attributed to autism. Two experiments were conducted to determine the relative contributions of alexithymia and autism to identity and expression recognition using psychophysical procedures. Experiment 1 showed that alexithymia correlates strongly with precision of expression attributions, while autism severity was unrelated to expression recognition ability. Experiment 2 confirmed that alexithymia is not associated with impaired ability to detect expression variation, instead suggesting difficulties interpreting intact sensory descriptions. Neither alexithymia nor autism was associated with biased or imprecise identity attributions. These findings accord with the hypothesis that the ‘emotional symptoms’ of autism are in fact due to comorbid alexithymia, and that existing diagnostic criteria may need to be revised.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Social Sciences, Psychology, Multidisciplinary, Psychology, PSYCHOLOGY, MULTIDISCIPLINARY, autism, alexithymia, face perception, identity recognition, emotion recognition, emotions, facial expressions, individual differences, IMPAIRED RECOGNITION, SPECTRUM DISORDER, PERCEPTION, CHILDREN, VALIDITY, IDENTITY, DEFICITS, AMYGDALA, ADULTS
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/4539
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