Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Emotional Acuity in Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Author(s): Martin, Katrina Lucia
  • Advisor(s): Sterponi, Laura
  • Hanson, Marci
  • et al.

The present study investigated the ability of young children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to identify emotion in photographs as well as their response to a distress event. Since communication is a core aspect of the disability, alternate methods of assessment were employed in order to investigate emotion understanding and emotion response in children with and without ASD. Thirty-one children with ASD (mean age 48 months) and forty typically developing children (mean age 53 months) participated. A sorting procedure was used to determine participants' ability to identify happy, sad and angry emotions in photographs with and without contextual information. Results suggest that context had no effect on either group. Children with ASD were significantly less likely to correctly sort emotional faces. When witnessing the experimenter in distress, children with ASD showed similar levels of affect matching and a similar pattern in heart rate. Significant differences were found in the eye gaze pattern of the two groups; the typically developing children were more likely to look at the face of the experimenter during the distress event. By reducing the language component required for the emotion identification task and including behavioral and physiological outcome measures to the response to distress paradigm, this study seeks to investigate the unique characteristics of children with ASD without the impediment of their communicative difficulties. These results provide insight into the emotional lives of children with ASD and may shed light on why these children respond differently to emotion than their typically developing peers.

Main Content
Current View