Children with autism spectrum disorder are skilled at reading emotion body language

Peterson, Candida C., Slaughter, Virginia and Brownell, Celia (2015) Children with autism spectrum disorder are skilled at reading emotion body language. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 139 35-50. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2015.04.012

Author Peterson, Candida C.
Slaughter, Virginia
Brownell, Celia
Title Children with autism spectrum disorder are skilled at reading emotion body language
Journal name Journal of Experimental Child Psychology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0965
Publication date 2015-11-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.jecp.2015.04.012
Open Access Status
Volume 139
Start page 35
End page 50
Total pages 16
Place of publication Maryland Heights, MO, United States
Publisher Academic Press
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Autism is commonly believed to impair the ability to perceive emotions, yet empirical evidence is mixed. Because face processing may be difficult for those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we developed a novel test of recognizing emotion via static body postures (Body-Emotion test) and evaluated it with children aged 5 to 12 years in two studies. In Study 1, 34 children with ASD and 41 typically developing (TD) controls matched for age and verbal intelligence (VIQ [verbal IQ]) were tested on (a) our new Body-Emotion test, (b) a widely used test of emotion recognition using photos of eyes as stimuli (Baron-Cohen et al.’s “Reading Mind in the Eyes: Child” or RMEC [Journal of Developmental and Learning Disorders, 2001, Vol. 5, pp. 47–78]), (c) a well-validated theory of mind (ToM) battery, and (d) a teacher-rated empathy scale. In Study 2 (33 children with ASD and 31 TD controls), the RMEC test was simplified to the six basic human emotions. Results of both studies showed that children with ASD performed as well as their TD peers on the Body-Emotion test. Yet TD children outperformed the ASD group on ToM and on both the standard RMEC test and the simplified version. VIQ was not related to perceiving emotions via either body posture or eyes for either group. However, recognizing emotions from body posture was correlated with ToM, especially for children with ASD. Finally, reading emotions from body posture was easier than reading emotions from eyes for both groups.
Keyword Autism
Body language
Emotion perception
Social cognition
Theory of mind
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
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