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'The eyes have it' -- Autism research yields surprising results

sure of the abilities of those with autism can be obtained through the use of sophisticated digital imaging techniques with animated facial expressions."

The study compared two groups of autistic children, one group aged 10?4 and one aged 11?5, with two control groups of non-autistic children. They underwent a series of tests to see whether they could gauge the mental state of a stranger by looking at different parts of the face.

Researchers conducted two experiments in which the participants looked at a series of facial expressions on a laptop screen. In the facial images used, the eyes and mouth were either ‘freeze-framed?in a neutral expression, or animated and expressive. By showing a sequence of different combinations, they were able to gauge which aspects of the face were used by the autistic children to ‘read?someone’s mental state ?and how successful they were.

In the second experiment, the 18 autistic children involved were as successful as non-autistic children in interpreting mental states, whether they saw the eyes in isolation or in the context of the whole face. This indicates that autistic children do, in fact, make use of information from the eyes ?a finding that contradicts prior studies.

An estimated 588,000 people have autism in the UK, according to the National Autistic Society. A mental health survey by the Office for National Statistics found the prevalence of children and young people anywhere on the autistic spectrum is 0.9 per cent ?almost one in every 100.
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Source:University of Nottingham


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