Emotion Recognition and Context in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

J Autism Dev Disord. 2021 Oct 7. doi: 10.1007/s10803-021-05292-2. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Emotion recognition research in autism has provided conflicting results and has ignored the role of context. We examined if autistic adolescents use context to identify displayed and felt emotion. Twenty adolescents with autism and 20 age-matched neurotypical adolescents identified emotions from a standardised set of images. The groups also viewed videos scenes with actors displaying a feigned emotion masking their true feelings. Participants identified the displayed and felt emotions. Both groups identified emotions from static images equally well. In the video condition, the autism group was unable to distinguish between the displayed and felt emotions. Emotion research is often divorced from context. Our findings suggest that autistic individuals have difficulty integrating contextual cues when processing emotions.

Keywords: Adolescents; Autism spectrum disorder; Contextual cues; Emotion masking.