Morphing technique reveals intact perception of object motion and disturbed perception of emotional expressions by low-functioning adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Res Dev Disabil. 2015 Dec;47:393-404. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2015.09.025. Epub 2015 Oct 27.


A morphing procedure has been designed to compare directly the perception of emotional expressions and of moving objects. Morphing tasks were presented to 12 low-functioning teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (LF ASD) compared to 12 developmental age-matched typical children and a group presenting ceiling performance. In a first study, when presented with morphed stimuli of objects and emotional faces, LF ASD showed an intact perception of object change of state together with an impaired perception of emotional facial change of state. In a second study, an eye-tracker recorded visual exploration of morphed emotional stimuli displayed by a human face and a robotic set-up. Facing the morphed robotic stimuli, LF ASD displayed equal duration of fixations toward emotional regions and toward mechanical sources of motion, while the typical groups tracked the emotional regions only. Altogether the findings of the two studies suggest that individuals with ASD process motion rather than emotional signals when facing facial expressions.

Keywords: Autism; Emotional expressions; Eye tracking; Morphing; Objects; Robot.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Emotions*
  • Eye Movement Measurements
  • Facial Expression*
  • Facial Recognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult