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Autism Research and Treatment
Volume 2014, Article ID 345878, 8 pages
Research Article

No Differences in Emotion Recognition Strategies in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence from Hybrid Faces

1Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, KU Leuven, Tiensestraat 102 (Box 3711), 3000 Leuven, Belgium
2Department of Child Psychiatry, UPC-KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
3Leuven Autism Research (LAuRes), KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
4Quantitative Psychology and Individual Differences, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
5Department of Clinical Genetics, University Hospital Maastricht, 6200 Maastricht, The Netherlands
6Parenting and Special Education Research Unit, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
7Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, MA, Boston, USA

Received 28 June 2013; Revised 24 November 2013; Accepted 2 December 2013; Published 5 January 2014

Academic Editor: Connie Kasari

Copyright © 2014 Kris Evers et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Emotion recognition problems are frequently reported in individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, this research area is characterized by inconsistent findings, with atypical emotion processing strategies possibly contributing to existing contradictions. In addition, an attenuated saliency of the eyes region is often demonstrated in ASD during face identity processing. We wanted to compare reliance on mouth versus eyes information in children with and without ASD, using hybrid facial expressions. A group of six-to-eight-year-old boys with ASD and an age- and intelligence-matched typically developing (TD) group without intellectual disability performed an emotion labelling task with hybrid facial expressions. Five static expressions were used: one neutral expression and four emotional expressions, namely, anger, fear, happiness, and sadness. Hybrid faces were created, consisting of an emotional face half (upper or lower face region) with the other face half showing a neutral expression. Results showed no emotion recognition problem in ASD. Moreover, we provided evidence for the existence of top- and bottom-emotions in children: correct identification of expressions mainly depends on information in the eyes (so-called top-emotions: happiness) or in the mouth region (so-called bottom-emotions: sadness, anger, and fear). No stronger reliance on mouth information was found in children with ASD.