Autistic adults exhibit highly precise representations of others' emotions but a reduced influence of emotion representations on emotion recognition accuracy.
Keating CT., Ichijo E., Cook JL.
To date, studies have not yet established the mechanisms underpinning differences in autistic and non-autistic emotion recognition. The current study first investigated whether autistic and non-autistic adults differed in terms of the precision and/or differentiation of their visual emotion representations and their general matching abilities, and second, explored whether differences therein were related to challenges in accurately recognizing emotional expressions. To fulfil these aims, 45 autistic and 45 non-autistic individuals completed three tasks employing dynamic point light displays of emotional facial expressions. We identified that autistic individuals had more precise visual emotion representations than their non-autistic counterparts, however, this did not confer any benefit for their emotion recognition. Whilst for non-autistic people, non-verbal reasoning and the interaction between precision of emotion representations and matching ability predicted emotion recognition, no variables contributed to autistic emotion recognition. These findings raise the possibility that autistic individuals are less guided by their emotion representations, thus lending support to Bayesian accounts of autism.