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Can children with autism read emotions from the eyes? The Eyes Test revisited

Franco, F., Itakura, S., Pomorska, K. , Abramowski, A., Nikaido, K. & Dimitriou, D. (2014). Can children with autism read emotions from the eyes? The Eyes Test revisited. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35(5), pp. 1015-1026. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2014.01.037


This study aimed to test two new, simplified tasks related to the eye-test, targeting children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and typically developing controls (TD). Test-1 assessed the recognition of emotion/mental states with displays using one word and two eyepictures, whereas Test-2 presented displays using two words and one eye-picture. Black and white photographs of children were used as materials. A cross-cultural study (Caucasian/East-Asian) with adults was initially carried out to verify generalizability across different ethnic groups. Cross-sectional trajectory analyses were used to compare emotion recognition from the eyes in the two tests. Trajectories were constructed linking performance on both tests either to chronological age or to different measures of mental age (receptive vocabulary based on the BPVS, CARS or ASQ for the ASD group). Performance improved with chronological age in both the ASD and TD groups of children. However, performance in Test-1 was significantly superior in children with ASD, who showed delayed onset and slower rate of improvement than TD children in Test-2. In both the ASD and TD groups the lowest error rate was recorded for the item ‘anger’, suggesting that threat-detection cue mechanisms may be intact in Autism. In general, all children showed good performance on our novel tests, thus making them good candidates for assessing younger children and those with lower general abilities.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Research in Developmental Disabilities. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Research in Developmental Disabilities, Volume 35, Issue 5, May 2014, 10.1016/j.ridd.2014.01.037
Publisher Keywords: ASD, emotion recognition, eye-test, developmental disorders, Theory of Mind (ToM)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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