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Poster A63

Title: Emotion Recognition and Autistic Traits: A Pupillometry Study

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Marilyn Chege1 (, Fakhri Shafai1, Julia Montenegro1, Nichole Scheerer1, Elizabeth Gateman1, Meara Stow1, Arin Abraham1, Tse Wing Winnie Ho1, Ryan A. Stevenson1; 1University of Western Ontario

Autistic individuals commonly exhibit difficulties with emotion recognition, difficulties that contribute to social issues in Autism. Both emotion recognition and social abilities are distributed along a spectrum in Autism and the general population. We explored this relationship between emotional processing, as measured via physiological response, and autistic traits, specifically social abilities. We presented participants with dynamic, audiovisual stimuli of actors uttering a semantically neutral phrase. These utterances were expressed with either neutral tone of voice and facial expression, or with angry, fearful, disgusted, sad, or surprised tone and expression. Each emotion was presented with high- and low-intensity depictions. Participants were asked to identify the emotion and rate its intensity. Participants’ pupillary responses were recorded during viewing. Social abilities were measured through a battery of self-report scales, including the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, the Broad Autism Phenotype Questionnaire, the Repetitive Behaviours Questionnaire, and the Social Responsiveness Scale. Social related subscales from each were normalized and averaged to calculate an overall index of social ability. Overall social ability and individual subscales were then related to pupillary response to emotional stimuli via Pearson correlation. Not surprisingly, high-intensity emotions induced larger pupillary responses than low-intensity emotions. Individuals with higher autistic traits also exhibited smaller overall responses. Interestingly, many social traits correlated with physiological responses to low-intensity emotional presentation, but not when the emotion was high-intensity. This reflects previous studies suggesting that Autistic individuals show more pronounced difficulties with emotion recognition when emotional expression is more subtle.

Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions


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April 13–16  |  2024