Basic and complex emotion recognition in children with autism: Cross-cultural findings
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Background: Children with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) have emotion recognition deficits when tested in different expression modalities (face, voice, body). However, these findings usually focus on basic emotions, using one or two expression modalities. In addition, cultural similarities and differences in emotion recognition patterns in children with ASC have not been explored before. The current study examined the similarities and differences in the recognition of basic and complex emotions by children with ASC and typically developing (TD) controls across three cultures: Israel, Britain, and Sweden. Methods: Fifty-five children with high-functioning ASC, aged 5-9, were compared to 58 TD children. On each site, groups were matched on age, sex, and IQ. Children were tested using four tasks, examining recognition of basic and complex emotions from voice recordings, videos of facial and bodily expressions, and emotional video scenarios including all modalities in context. Results: Compared to their TD peers, children with ASC showed emotion recognition deficits in both basic and complex emotions on all three modalities and their integration in context. Complex emotions were harder to recognize, compared to basic emotions for the entire sample. Cross-cultural agreement was found for all major findings, with minor deviations on the face and body tasks. Conclusions: Our findings highlight the multimodal nature of ER deficits in ASC, which exist for basic as well as complex emotions and are relatively stable cross-culturally. Cross-cultural research has the potential to reveal both autism-specific universal deficits and the role that specific cultures play in the way empathy operates in different countries.
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