Date of Award

1993

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Johnny L. Matson

Abstract

Autistic males ages 8 to 16 made significantly more errors than did chronologically and intellectually age-matched nonautistic normal and mentally retarded males on emotion recognition tasks using audiotaped and videotaped emotion sequences. The audiotape and videotape included "happy" "sad," "scared," "angry," and "no emotion" sequences. Emotional sequences included emotionally relevant verbal content and the length of verbalized material in the emotional sequences was limited to between 4 and 10 words. Videotaped sequences showed actors portraying facial expressions and verbal content consistent with the five emotion states. Both tapes were rated by normal adults and children as containing "socially valid" representations of these basic emotions. No difference was seen between performance on the audiotaped emotions (aural information only) and videotaped emotions (visual plus aural information), although there was a trend towards a higher mean number of correctly identified emotions on the videotape. Subjects' facial expressions of the five emotions were rated by undergraduate students blind to the subjects' diagnosis. Autistic subjects' posed facial expressions, in comparison to those made by normal/mentally retarded subjects, were identified less accurately by raters and were rated as "different" from normal, as well as less "precise" in their match with commonly held views of how the basic emotions are represented. Autistic children displayed greater difficulty in producing on demand facial expressions of the "negative" emotions (i.e., those emotions viewed as subjectively or hedonically "less-pleasing" to the individual) of "sad," "scared," and "angry." The results are consistent with previous research indicating impairment in autistic children's appreciation and production of basic emotion. Implications of the findings are discussed and future research proposed.

Pages

222

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