Affiliative behavior in Williams syndrome: social perception and real-life social behavior

Neuropsychologia. 2010 Jun;48(7):2110-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.03.032. Epub 2010 Apr 10.


A frequently noted but largely anecdotal behavioral observation in Williams syndrome (WS) is an increased tendency to approach strangers, yet the basis for this behavior remains unknown. We examined the relationship between affect identification ability and affiliative behavior in participants with WS relative to a neurotypical comparison group. We quantified social behavior from self-judgments of approachability for faces, and from parent/other evaluations of real life. Relative to typical individuals, participants with WS were perceived as more sociable by others, exhibited perceptual deficits in affect identification, and judged faces of strangers as more approachable. In WS, high self-rated willingness to approach strangers was correlated with poor affect identification ability, suggesting that these two findings may be causally related. We suggest that the real-life hypersociability in WS may arise at least in part from abnormal perceptual processing of other people's faces, rather than from an overall bias at the level of behavior. While this did not achieve statistical significance, it provides preliminary evidence to suggest that impaired social-perceptual ability may play a role in increased approachability in WS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Face
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Perception*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Williams Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Williams Syndrome / psychology*
  • Young Adult