Objectives: In this study, we aimed to test the anger superiority effect in children with and without ASD, and to examine the developmental change in this effect.
Methods: 19 children with ASD ages 7 to 11 years old and 18 typically developing children (TD) with same age participated in this study. Visual search paradigm using touch-sensitive monitor was employed. Schematic facial stimuli including angry, happy, and neutral faces were used. The task includes two conditions to examine the search asymmetry effect. In the first condition, emotional faces were presented as targets and neutral faces were presented as distracters. In the other condition, neutral faces were presented as targets and emotional faces were presented as distracters. Participants were required to touch the object which is different from others as quick as possible. Reaction times in correct responses were measured.
Results: The results revealed that an angry face was detected more quickly than a happy face both in ASD and in TD. However, when integrating the effect of emotional stimuli both as a target and as distracters (Emotion Effect Index: EEI), which indicates the size of search asymmetry effect, the EEI was significantly different between the groups. Further analysis revealed that the EEI tended to be predicted by age in ASD, but not in TD.
Conclusions: These results suggested that children with ASD may acquire the sensitivity to the threat in faces as they grow up.
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