Face Recognition and Processing in Children with Autism

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
C. Wang, Nankai University, Tianjin, China
Background: It was reported that typically developing (TD) children are able to recognize the familiar faces and voices when they are four years old and they also prefer to focus on the more socially revealing features of face, such as eyes rather than mouth; in contrast, individuals with ASD seem to lack these early social predispositions, and have problems to recognize the familiar faces (Boucher, et al, 1998) and unfamiliar faces (Wilson, et al, 2007).

Objectives: This study aims to explore the influence of familiarities on the background and faces during face recognition and processing in children with autism.

Methods: Nineteen children with ASD ages from three to seven (M=5.34, SD=1.10, M:F=16:3) and nineteen age-matched TD (M=5.04, SD=0.36, M:F=10:9) were recruited and required to watch a set of pictures. Their gaze behaviours were measured via an integrated Tobii TX300. These pictures contained faces with three different familiarity degrees (familiar, repeatedly unfamiliar, unfamiliar) and backgrounds (familiar and unfamiliar). A multi-factor, repeated measurement ANOVA with factors areas of interest (AOI: whole face, eyes, mouth and background), faces, backgrounds and groups (ASD, TD) was applied to gaze fixation durations.

Results: The results showed that TD children spent longer viewing familiar faces than unfamiliar faces (F(2,36)=16.449, p=0.000). Both TD and ASD children spent longer time viewing familiar background than unfamiliar background (TD: F(1,18)=24.915, p=0.000; ASD: F(1,18)=21.989,p=0.000). Compared to familiar faces, both ASD and TD children had increased fixation duration on backgrounds when viewing unfamiliar faces (ASD: F(1,18)=24.883, p=0.000; TD: F(1,18)=5.411, p=0.032). While watching familiar faces, ASD children spent longer time viewing eyes and mouth (Mouth: F(2,36)=6.800, p=0.003; Left eye: F(2,36)=8.169, p=0.001; Right eye: F(2,36)=11.144, p=0.000).

Conclusions: In summary, ASD showed impairments on face cognition and processing. Both ASD and TD showed preference to familiar faces and backgrounds.