Speeded recognition of fear and surprise in autism

Emese Nagy (Lead / Corresponding author), Stacey C. Paton, Fiona E. A. Primrose, Tibor Farkas, Coreen F. Pow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
292 Downloads (Pure)


Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) involve difficulties with socio-emotional functioning; however, research on emotion recognition remains inconclusive. Children with ASD have been reported to show less susceptibility to spatial inversion. The aim of this study is to examine whether children with ASD utilize atypical abilities in socio-emotional processing. The present study tested 13 children with ASD (1 female, M: 15.10 yrs, SD: 1.60 yrs), 13 children without ASD (4 females, M: 15.92 yrs, SD: 1.03 yrs) and 20 control adults (11 females, M: 24.77 yrs, SD: 8.30 yrs) to investigate the speed and accuracy of their responses to images of neutral faces and faces expressing ‘easy’ (happiness, anger) and ‘difficult’ emotions (surprise, fear) in non-rotated (0°) and rotated (30°, 90°, 150°, 180°, 210°, 270° and 330°) positions. The results showed that children with ASD recognized both easy and difficult emotions as accurately as did children and adults without ASD. Children with ASD, however, responded significantly faster to difficult emotions when the images were rotated. These results offer less support for a deficiency model than for an atypical, rapid featural type of processing used by children with ASD to encode and understand complex socio-emotional stimuli.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1117-1138
Number of pages22
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2018


  • autism
  • emotion perception
  • emotion recognition
  • emotional facial expressions
  • mental rotation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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