This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

An Analysis of Emotion Recognition and Facial Processing Across Human and Cartoon Stimuli in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders




Sevlever, Melina

Type of Degree





The emotion recognition and eye tracking literature has yielded inconsistent findings with respect to the social perception and attentional abilities of children and adults with ASD. Previous research has suggested that both cartoon stimuli and circumscribed-interest (CI) stimuli may assist in elucidating variable results. The present study examined emotion recognition and gaze fixation patterns using computer-generated and naturalistic static human and cartoon scenes. Participants included 12 children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and 13 typically developing children ages 4 to 11 years. Children with ASD (CWA) were found to demonstrate impairments in emotion recognition in only one stimulus subtype: naturalistic human stimuli. Significant differences in eye gaze were also identified across groups. Typically developing participants tended to gaze more at the face and mouth of computer-generated and naturalistic cartoon stimuli than CWA. Gaze fixation duration and count to static human scenes were not found to be abnormal in the ASD group. Emotion recognition and gaze differed across CWA with a CI in Thomas the Tank Engine and CWA without a CI in Thomas the Tank Engine. Limitations and clinical implications are discussed.