Eye Gaze Characteristics of Adults on the Autism Spectrum during Complex Dynamic Facial Emotion Recognition
Objectives: To examine the eye gaze characteristics of adults with high functioning ASD while viewing complex, dynamic facial emotions to investigate the underlying attentional and cognitive processes underlying complex FER in ASD.
Methods: Eye tracking data was recorded while 20 adults with high functioning ASD and 20 IQ and gender matched typically developing adults completed a labelling FER task. Participants were required to complete subset of the Cambridge Mind Reading Face-Voice battery, a battery which consists of videos of complex emotions.
Results: Adults with ASD were significantly less accurate at identifying positive complex emotions (vibrant, empathic, exonerated, and intimate) compared to typically developing counterparts. Adults with ASD also fixated longer to the mouths of complex, dynamic emotions regardless of emotional valence.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that the processing of positive affect is particularly impaired in ASD when viewing complex, dynamic stimuli. Excessive focus to the mouths of complex emotions during FER may hinder the extraction of pertinent information from other core face regions, which may cause particularly pronounced deficits when viewing positively valanced emotions. The findings provide useful insights into the mechanisms of emotion recognition impairments in ASD during the processing of complex social information.