Impaired Recognition of Negative Facial Expressions is Partly Related to Facial Perception Deficits in Adolescents with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Michael K. Yeung
  • Tsz L. Lee
  • Agnes S. ChanEmail author
Original Paper


Accumulating studies have reported facial emotion recognition or facial perception impairments in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To clarify the specificity of the emotion recognition impairment, this study examined the relationships between facial emotion recognition and facial perception abilities in ASD. Twenty-two adolescents with high-functioning ASD (20 males) and 22 typically developing (TD) adolescents (16 males) aged 11–18 years undertook a facial emotion labeling task and a facial perception test. We found that adolescents with ASD had deficits in recognizing negative facial expressions, which correlated with both facial perception deficits and severity of social impairment. In addition, the emotion recognition deficits remained after adjusting for facial perception performance. Thus, our findings suggest an emotion-specific impairment in facial emotion recognition in ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder Facial emotion recognition Facial perception Adolescent Unbiased hit rate 



The authors would like to thank Buddhist Tai Hung College, Chi Lin Buddhist Secondary School, Heep Hong Society, New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, City of Love, and Parents’ Association of Pre-school Handicapped Children for their assistance in subject recruitment. Appreciation is extended to all adolescents and parents who participated in this research project.

Authors’ Contributions

MY contributed to the conceptualization of the study. MY and TL contributed to the subject recruitment and data collection. MY undertook the data analysis and prepared the initial draft of the manuscript. MY, TL, and AC significantly contributed to the later versions of the manuscript, and read and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

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.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael K. Yeung
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tsz L. Lee
    • 2
  • Agnes S. Chan
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Montreal Neurological InstituteMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Neuropsychology Laboratory, Department of PsychologyThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatin, New TerritoriesChina
  3. 3.Chanwuyi Research Center for Neuropsychological Well-beingThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatin, New TerritoriesChina

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