August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Autistic adults exhibit highly precise representations of others’ emotions but a reduced influence of emotion representations on emotion recognition accuracy
Author Affiliations & Notes
    University of Birmingham
  • Connor Keating
    University of Birmingham
  • Eri Ichijo
    University of Oxford
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under ERC-2017-STG Grant Agreement No 757583
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 5380. doi:
  • Views
  • Share
  • Tools
    • Alerts
      This feature is available to authenticated users only.
      Sign In or Create an Account ×
    • Get Citation

      JENNIFER COOK, Connor Keating, Eri Ichijo; Autistic adults exhibit highly precise representations of others’ emotions but a reduced influence of emotion representations on emotion recognition accuracy. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):5380.

      Download citation file:

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

  • Supplements

Background: “Visual representations of emotions” - the way you picture expressions in your “minds’ eye” - are important contributors to emotion recognition. For example, people who have precise representations, that are clearly differentiated from representations of other emotions, have more accurate emotion recognition. This relationship is moderated by the ability to match two visual images. Here we compared autistic and non-autistic adults on their matching ability, and precision and differentiation of their emotion representations. Method: 45 autistic and 45 non-autistic (age, non-verbal reasoning- and sex-matched) adults completed three tasks: 1) “ExpressionMap” required participants to manipulate a dial to speed-up or slow-down point light displays of facial expressions (PLFs) until they matched their representation of anger, happiness and sadness. Precision was calculated as variability, across trials, in attributed speed. Differentiation was calculated as the mean distance (in terms of speed) between emotions. 2) “Visual Matching” required participants to match the speed of two PLFs. 3) “Emotion Recognition” required participants to rate the extent to which angry, happy, or sad PLFs appeared angry, happy and sad. Results: Autistic participants [mean(SEM) = 1.54(0.05)] exhibited significantly higher precision than non-autistic participants [mean(SEM) = 1.42(0.04); F(1,84)= 5.94, p = .017]. There was no main effect of group for differentiation or visual matching [ps > .05]. For non-autistic people, emotion recognition accuracy was positively predicted by an interaction between precision x visual matching [F(1,42)= 4.27, p = .045]: for individuals with low visual matching, representational precision was a positive predictor [F(1,21)= 8.86, p = .007, R2 = 0.297]. For autistic participants, there were no significant predictors of emotion recognition accuracy [all p > .05]. Conclusion: Our findings suggest intact – and in some ways enhanced – emotion representations in autism but raise the possibility that emotion recognition in autism is less guided by stored representations.


This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

Sign in or purchase a subscription to access this content. ×

You must be signed into an individual account to use this feature.