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Rebecca Brewer, Federica Biotti, Geoffrey Bird, Richard Cook; Typical integration of emotion cues from the face and body in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):628. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.628.
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Contextual cues derived from body postures bias how typical observers categorise facial emotion; the same facial expression may be perceived as anger or disgust when aligned with angry and disgusted body postures. This integration is thought to occur automatically, despite instructions to disregard body context, and influence the early visual processing of others. In typical observers, integration processes may emerge in response to the covariation of facial and bodily expressions. However, it is widely thought that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) struggle to integrate information from disparate visual regions to form unitary percepts. This local processing style may leave them less susceptible to visual illusions induced by context. The current study therefore investigated whether individuals with ASD exhibit diminished integration of emotion cues extracted from faces and bodies. Individuals with ASD (N = 19) and typical controls (N=27) completed a binary expression classification task. Facial stimuli were drawn from a morph continuum created by blending two images of the same actor expressing disgust and anger. The body contexts depicted the same actor posing anger and disgusted postures. In the baseline no-context condition, the facial target was presented in isolation. In the two context conditions, the facial target was accompanied by angry and disgusted body postures. Following stimulus offset, participants were prompted to categorize the facial emotion as either 'Disgust' or 'Anger'. Participants were explicitly instructed to disregard the body context. Contextual modulation was inferred from a shift in the resulting psychometric functions. Contrary to our prediction, observers with ASD showed typical integration of emotion cues from the face and body. Correlation analyses indicated a strong relationship between the ability to categorise emotion when faces were presented in isolation, and susceptibility to contextual influence; body cues were relied upon to a greater extent in individuals with poorer facial emotion recognition.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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