Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 191–202 | Cite as

Recognition of facial emotions on human and canine faces in children with and without autism spectrum disorders

  • Denise DavidsonEmail author
  • Elizabeth Hilvert
  • Ieva Misiunaite
  • Katy Kerby
  • Michael Giordano
Original Paper


In children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), it is not clear whether emotion recognition impairments are unique to human faces. In the present study, children with ASD and neurotypical (NT) children were shown photographs of human and canine faces expressing angry, fear, happy, sad, or neutral expressions. Between-group differences showed that children with ASD were less accurate in their overall recognition of emotion on human faces than NT children, whereas the groups did not differ in their recognition of emotion on canine faces. In terms of within-group results, NT children did not differ in their recognition of emotions on human and canine faces, while children with ASD were more accurate in recognizing emotions on canine than on human faces. Although ASD symptomatology was not related to emotion recognition performance, some evidence was found that theory of mind and age were related to emotion recognition in all children.


Facial emotion recognition Autism spectrum disorder Basic emotions Theory of mind Human and canine faces 



We wish to thank the children, parents, teachers and staff that made this research possible. Portions of the data were presented at the Society for Research in Child Development 2015 biennial meeting, Philadelphia, PA. Address correspondence regarding this article to Denise Davidson,

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the study were approved, and in accordance with, the ethical standards at the host university.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Loyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA

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