Eye-Gaze Analyis of Facial Emotion Expression in Adolescents with ASD

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Virginia Tech

Prior research has shown that both emotion recognition and expression in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) differs from that of typically developing children, and that these differences may contribute to observed social impairment. This study extends prior research in this area with an integrated examination of both expression and recognition of emotion, and evaluation of spontaneous generation of emotional expression in response to another person's emotion, a behavior that is characteristically deficient in ASD. The aim of this study was to assess eye gaze patterns during scripted and spontaneous emotion expression tasks, and to assess quality of emotional expression in relation to gaze patterns. Youth with ASD fixated less to the eye region of stimuli showing surprise (F(1,19.88) = 4.76, p = .04 for spontaneous task; F(1,19.88) = 3.93, p = .06 for the recognition task), and they expressed emotion less clearly than did the typically developing sample (F(1, 35) = 6.38, p = .02) in the spontaneous task, but there was not a significant group difference in the scripted task across the emotions. Results do not, however, suggest altered eye gaze as a candidate mechanism for decreased ability to express an emotion. Findings from this research inform our understanding of the social difficulties associated with emotion recognition and expression deficits.

autism spectrum disorder, emotion recognition, emotion expression, eye-tracking