Absence of predispositional attentional sensitivity to angry faces in children with autism spectrum disorders

Tomoko Isomura, Hiroyasu Ito, Shino Ogawa, Nobuo Masataka

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A rapid allocation of attention towards threatening stimuli in the environment is crucial for survival. Angry facial expressions act as threatening stimuli, and capture humans' attention more rapidly than emotionally positive facial expressions - a phenomenon known as the Anger Superiority Effect (ASE). Despite atypical emotional processing, adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have been reported to show ASE similar to typically developed (TD) individuals. One important question is whether the basic process for ASE is intact in individuals with ASD or whether instead they acquire an alternative process that enables ASE. To address this question, we tested the prevalence of ASE in young children with and without ASD using a face-in-the-crowd task. ASE was clearly observed in TD children, whereas ASD children did not show the effect. In contrast to previous reports of ASE in adults or relatively older children with ASD, our results suggest that in ASD basic predispositional mechanisms to allocate attention quickly towards angry faces are not preserved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7525
JournalScientific reports
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Dec 18
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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