Title page for ETD etd-05122012-135557

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Lorenzi, Jill Elizabeth
Author's Email Address lorenzi@vt.edu
URN etd-05122012-135557
Title Ability of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to Identify Emotional Facial Expressions
Degree Master of Science
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Scarpa-Friedman, Angela Committee Chair
Cooper, Robin K. Panneton Committee Member
White, Susan W. Committee Member
  • Children
  • Emotion Identification
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Eye Tracking
  • Audiovisual Integration
Date of Defense 2012-05-01
Availability restricted
Previous research on emotion identification in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has

demonstrated inconsistent results. While some studies have cited a deficit in emotion

identification for individuals with ASD compared to controls, others have failed to find a

difference. Many studies have used static photographs that do not capture subtle details of

dynamic, real-life facial expressions that characterize authentic social interactions, and therefore

have not been able to provide complete information regarding emotion identification. The

current study aimed to build upon prior research by using dynamic, talking videos where the

speaker expresses emotions of happiness, sadness, fear, anger, and excitement, both with and

without a voice track. Participants included 10 children with ASD between the ages of four and

12, and 10 gender- and mental age-matched children with typical development between six and

12. Overall, both ASD and typically developing groups performed similarly in their accuracy,

though the group with typical development benefited more from the addition of voice. Eye

tracking analyses considered the eye region and mouth as areas of interest (AOIs). Eye tracking

data from accurately identified trials resulted in significant main effects for group (longer and

more fixations for participants with typical development) and condition (longer and more

fixations on voiced emotions), and a significant condition by AOI interaction, where participants

fixated longer and more on the eye region in the voiced condition compared to the silent

condition, but fixated on the mouth approximately the same in both conditions. Treatment implications and directions for future research are discussed.

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