Perception of emotional facial expressions in individuals with high Autism-spectrum Quotient (AQ)

Ervin Poljac


Autism is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, restrictive and repetitive behaviours and specific impairments in emotional processing. The present study employed The Autism Spectrum Quotient (Baron-Cohen et al. 2006) to quantify autistic traits in a group of 260 healthy individuals and to investigate whether this measure is related to the perception of facial emotional expressions. The emotional processing of twelve participants that scored significantly higher than the average on the AQ was compared to twelve participants with significantly lower AQ scores. Perception of emotional expressions was estimated by The Facial Recognition Task (Montagne et al. 2007). There were significant differences between the two groups with regard to accuracy and sensitivity of the perception of emotional facial expressions. Specifically, the group with high AQ score was less accurate and needed higher emotional content to recognize emotions of anger, disgust, happiness and sadness. This result implies a selective impairment that might be helpful in understanding the psychopathology of autism spectrum disorders.    


Autism spectrum quotient; Face perception; Emotion recognition; Facial expression; Affective processing

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