The trouble with faces: mechanisms underlying face processing atypicalities in Autism

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] This thesis examined specific processing atypicalities that might contribute to atypical face perception in autism. Four studies with a sample of cognitively able children with autism and typical children of similar age and ability, investigated the perceptual underpinnings of these processing difficulties in different ways. Study 1 asked whether face-processing difficulties in children with autism were disproportionately more severe than any difficulties with comparably complex non-face stimuli. Few studies have rigorously examined whether processing atypicalities in autism are face-selective in this way. We reasoned that the scope of observed deficits might be informative about whether the processing difference/s stem from a particular lack of interest and experience with faces, or a more pervasive processing atypicality. We examined memory and discrimination ability for faces, inverted faces and cars, to reveal significant and similar-sized difficulties in children with autism remembering faces and cars, and discriminating within all three stimulus categories, relative to typical children. This consistent profile of diminished performance is consistent with a potentially pervasive processing difference in autism, which affects perception of face and non-face stimuli alike.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011


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