Converging evidence of configural processing of faces in high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorders
There is conflicting evidence about whether individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) demonstrate configural processing of faces. We examined two types of configural processing of unfamiliar faces in high-functioning adults with ASD: Holistic processing (processing a face as a gestalt percept) and processing of second-order relations (the spatial relations among facial features, e.g., distance between two eyes). Compared to age- and IQ-matched typical adults, 17 adults with ASD demonstrated normal holistic processing (as demonstrated by the composite face effect), normal sensitivity to second-order relations in upright faces, and the expected disruption of sensitivity to second-order relations in inverted faces. They were also normal in using the internal features and shape of the external contour to make same/different judgements about facial identity. The results provide converging evidence of configural processing of unfamiliar faces in high-functioning adults with ASD, and bring into question the generalizability of previous reports of abnormal face processing in individuals with ASD.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Publication date: 2008-02-01