Attentional Patterns to Emotional Faces Versus Scenes in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Previous research has shown attentional biases in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) when processing distressing information. This study examined these attentional patterns as a function of the type of stimulus (scenes and faces) and the stimulus valence (happy, sad, threatening, neutral) using a within-subject design. A dot-probe was applied to ASD (n = 24) and typically developing (TD) children (n = 24). Results showed no differences between the groups for happy and sad stimuli. Critically, ASD children showed an attentional bias toward threatening scenes but away from threatening faces. Thus, the type of stimuli modulated the direction of attentional biases to distressing information in ASD children. These results are discussed in the framework of current theories on cognitive and emotional processing in ASD.
KeywordsAutism spectrum disorders Childhood Attentional bias Emotional information Dot-probe task
Ana García-Blanco was the recipient of a “Juan Rodés” fellowship (JR17/00003) and a grant (PI18/01352) from the Instituto Carlos III (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Innovation). We would like to acknowledge our colleagues Elena Serrano Lozano, Belén Almansa Tomás and Alba Moreno Giménez for their assistance at different stages of the research process.
AGB and MP conceived of the study, participated in its design, coordination, data collection, statistical analyses and supervised manuscript editing. JC, MAV, NY, IM, and MV contributed to conception of the study, recruitment of participants, and data interpretation. RS and FG conceived of the study, participated in data collection and drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
This study was funded by a fellowship from a research institute ascribed to a national ministry.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
was obtained from all the parents of the participants included in the study.
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