The Development of Emotion Recognition in Individuals With Autism


  • This study was supported by a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism (CPEA) Grant P01-HD35469 and also by a National Alliance for Autism Research Pre-doctoral Mentor Based Fellowship Award in Autism Research. The data in Experiment 1 partially formed the doctoral dissertation of Joyce L. Giovannelli at the University of Pittsburgh. Preliminary versions of the findings were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, Boston, and the International Meeting for Autism Research, Montreal, Canada. We are grateful to Catherine Best, Holly Gastgeb, and Desiree Wilkinson for testing participants and also for commenting on prior versions of this manuscript. In addition, we would like to thank the individuals who served as models for our dynamic stimuli.

concerning this article should be addressed to Mark S. Strauss, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 210 South Bouquet Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Electronic mail may be sent to


Emotion recognition was investigated in typically developing individuals and individuals with autism. Experiment 1 tested children (5–7 years, n = 37) with brief video displays of facial expressions that varied in subtlety. Children with autism performed worse than the control children. In Experiment 2, 3 age groups (8–12 years, n = 49; 13–17 years, n = 49; and adults n = 45) were tested on the same stimuli. Whereas the performance of control individuals was best in the adult group, the performance of individuals with autism was similar in all age groups. Results are discussed with respect to underlying cognitive processes that may be affecting the development of emotion recognition in individuals with autism.