Using Effort to Measure Reward Value of Faces in Children with Autism

Louise Ewing, Elizabeth Pellicano, Gillian Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


According to one influential account, face processing atypicalities in autism reflect reduced reward value of faces, which results in limited attention to faces during development and a consequent failure to acquire face expertise. Surprisingly, however, there is a paucity of work directly investigating the reward value of faces for individuals with autism and the evidence for diminished face rewards in this population remains equivocal. In the current study, we measured how hard children with autism would work to view faces, using an effortful key-press sequence, and whether they were sensitive to the differential reward value of attractive and unattractive faces. Contrary to expectations, cognitively able children with autism did not differ from typically developing children of similar age and ability in their willingness to work to view faces. Moreover, the effort expended was strongly positively correlated with facial attractiveness ratings in both groups of children. There was also no evidence of atypical reward values for other, less social categories (cars and inverted faces) in the children with autism. These results speak against the possibility that face recognition difficulties in autism are explained by atypical reward value of faces. © 2013 Ewing et al.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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