August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Emotional influences on the identity composite effect in Autism Spectrum Disorder
Author Affiliations
  • Rebecca Brewer
    School of Psychology, University of East London
  • Katie Gray
    School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading
  • Geoffrey Bird
    Department of Psychology, City University London
  • Richard Cook
    MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiartry Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 484. doi:
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      Rebecca Brewer, Katie Gray, Geoffrey Bird, Richard Cook; Emotional influences on the identity composite effect in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):484.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Previous research indicates that recognising the identity of part of a face (e.g. the top half) is easier when the face is misaligned with a distractor face part (bottom half) than when the two incongruent halves are aligned, due to the two parts being 'fused', and therefore distorted, by holistic processing in the aligned condition (the 'composite face effect'). The composite face effect is widely accepted as a test of holistic processing of facial identity, but the size of this effect has varied considerably between studies. Similarly, some studies have observed atypical composite effects in those with ASD (who often exhibit identity recognition difficulties), while others have not. The composite effect has also been observed with facial emotion, however, and 'neutral' faces are often perceived to display some degree of emotion. Recent evidence suggests that the 'identity' composite effect with ostensibly neutral faces is far stronger when distractor halves are high in perceived emotion than when distractor halves are low in perceived emotion. This suggests that the composite face effect may rely on the holistic processing of facial emotion, rather than facial identity. Individual differences in emotion recognition abilities may, therefore, explain previously mixed findings concerning the composite effect in those with ASD. Previous work suggests that emotion recognition deficits in individuals with ASD are predicted by alexithymia, rather than by ASD itself. The current study investigated the impact of alexithymia and ASD on the size of the composite face effect with ostensibly neutral faces, perceived to be high and low in emotion, in 16 individuals with ASD and 16 alexithymia-matched control participants. Results indicated that the size of the composite effect for 'neutral' faces varies substantially based on emotional content and emotion recognition abilities, supporting the hypothesis that this effect relies partly upon holistic processing of emotion, not identity.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016


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