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26-08-2019 | Original Paper | Uitgave 11/2019 Open Access

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 11/2019

The Animal in Me: Enhancing Emotion Recognition in Adolescents with Autism Using Animal Filters

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders > Uitgave 11/2019
Liam Cross, Myles Farha, Gray Atherton
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People with autism are often characterized as having difficulties with theory of mind abilities such as emotion recognition. However, rather than being a pervasive deficit of ‘mindblindness,’ a number of studies suggests these difficulties vary by context, and when people with autism mindread non-human agents, such as animals or cartoons, these abilities improve. To replicate this effect, 15 adolescents with both autism and intellectual disability participated in a test of facial emotion recognition, with both human and animal faces. Participants performed significantly better on the animal version of the assessment compared to the human version, and human rather than animal scores were the strongest predictor of symptom severity. These results were shown to be primarily driven by improvement in recognition of the emotions happiness and anger in animal rather than human faces. Implications with regards to social motivation and theory of mind interventions are discussed.

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