• Can adults with autism spectrum disorders infer what happened to someone from their emotional response

      Cassidy, S.; Ropar, D.; Mitchell, Peter; Chapman, P. (2014-02)
      Can adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) infer what happened to someone from their emotional response? Millikan has argued that in everyday life, others' emotions are most commonly used to work out the antecedents of behavior, an ability termed retrodictive mindreading. As those with ASD show difficulties interpreting others' emotions, we predicted that these individuals would have difficulty with retrodictive mindreading. Sixteen adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome and 19 typically developing adults viewed 21 video clips of people reacting to one of three gifts (chocolate, monopoly money, or a homemade novelty) and then inferred what gift the recipient received and the emotion expressed by that person. Participants' eye movements were recorded while they viewed the videos. Results showed that participants with ASD were only less accurate when inferring who received a chocolate or homemade gift. This difficulty was not due to lack of understanding what emotions were appropriate in response to each gift, as both groups gave consistent gift and emotion inferences significantly above chance (genuine positive for chocolate and feigned positive for homemade). Those with ASD did not look significantly less to the eyes of faces in the videos, and looking to the eyes did not correlate with accuracy on the task. These results suggest that those with ASD are less accurate when retrodicting events involving recognition of genuine and feigned positive emotions, and challenge claims that lack of attention to the eyes causes emotion recognition difficulties in ASD.
    • Processing of Spontaneous Emotional Responses in Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders Effect of Stimulus Type

      Cassidy, S.; Mitchell, Peter; Chapman, P.; Ropar, D. (2015-10)
      Recent research has shown that adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulty interpreting others' emotional responses, in order to work out what actually happened to them. It is unclear what underlies this difficulty; important cues may be missed from fast paced dynamic stimuli, or spontaneous emotional responses may be too complex for those with ASD to successfully recognise. To explore these possibilities, 17 adolescents and adults with ASD and 17 neurotypical controls viewed 21 videos and pictures of peoples' emotional responses to gifts (chocolate, a handmade novelty or Monopoly money), then inferred what gift the person received and the emotion expressed by the person while eye movements were measured. Participants with ASD were significantly more accurate at distinguishing who received a chocolate or homemade gift from static (compared to dynamic) stimuli, but significantly less accurate when inferring who received Monopoly money from static (compared to dynamic) stimuli. Both groups made similar emotion attributions to each gift in both conditions (positive for chocolate, feigned positive for homemade and confused for Monopoly money). Participants with ASD only made marginally significantly fewer fixations to the eyes of the face, and face of the person than typical controls in both conditions. Results suggest adolescents and adults with ASD can distinguish subtle emotion cues for certain emotions (genuine from feigned positive) when given sufficient processing time, however, dynamic cues are informative for recognising emotion blends (e.g. smiling in confusion). This indicates difficulties processing complex emotion responses in ASD.