Multimodal emotion understanding in children with and without autism

Back, Elisa, Barhouch, Angela and Khoo, Chok (2021) Multimodal emotion understanding in children with and without autism. In: Society for Research in Child Development Virtual Biennial Meeting; 07 - 09 Apr 2021, Held online. (Unpublished)


Previous studies have revealed inconsistent findings regarding impairments in the understanding of basic and complex emotions in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This study examines several areas of emotion understanding: emotion recognition, causality, appropriate behaviour, and empathy using multimodal naturalistic stimuli. In the current study, 17 children with ASD (6-12 year olds) were matched on chronological age and full scale IQ to 17 typically developing (TD) children. They were presented with newly developed video stimuli, which depicted children of a similar age engaging in everyday social interactions. Participants were asked to identify basic and complex emotions, infer causality and to predict appropriate behaviours using forced-choice procedures. Participants’ ability to demonstrate empathic responses was also investigated using a free-report paradigm. Findings revealed that children with ASD were as proficient as TD children in recognising complex emotions and that they demonstrated multimodal processing abilities in all areas of emotion understanding. Nevertheless, children with ASD showed impairments compared to TD children with respect to understanding causality, predicting appropriate behaviours, and levels of empathy. To conclude, children with ASD can identify complex emotions but have difficulties in other areas of emotion understanding.

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