Face recognition in children with a pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified

J Autism Dev Disord. 2003 Jun;33(3):303-17. doi: 10.1023/a:1024458618172.


This study investigates the accuracy and speed of face recognition in children with a Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS; DSM-IV, American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994). The study includes a clinical group of 26 nonretarded 7- to 10-year-old children with PDDNOS and a control group of 65 normally developing children of the same age. Two computerized reaction time tasks were administered: a face recognition task and a control task designed to measure the recognition of abstract visuospatial patterns. The latter were either easy or difficult to distinguish from a set of alternative patterns. The normally developing children recognized the faces much faster than the hardly distinguishable abstract patterns. The children in the PDDNOS group needed an amount of time to recognize the faces that almost equalled the time they needed to recognize the abstract patterns that were difficult to distinguish. The results suggest that, when processing faces, children with PDDNOS use a strategy that is more attention-demanding and, hence, less automatic or "Gestalt-like" than the one used by the control children. The results are discussed in the light of a theory that explains the development of coherent mental representations.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / diagnosis*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Reaction Time