Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 4, pp 973–984 | Cite as

Individual differences and the effect of face configuration information in the McGurk effect

  • Yuta Ujiie
  • Tomohisa Asai
  • Akio Wakabayashi
Research Article


The McGurk effect, which denotes the influence of visual information on audiovisual speech perception, is less frequently observed in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to those without it; the reason for this remains unclear. Several studies have suggested that facial configuration context might play a role in this difference. More specifically, people with ASD show a local processing bias for faces—that is, they process global face information to a lesser extent. This study examined the role of facial configuration context in the McGurk effect in 46 healthy students. Adopting an analogue approach using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), we sought to determine whether this facial configuration context is crucial to previously observed reductions in the McGurk effect in people with ASD. Lip-reading and audiovisual syllable identification tasks were assessed via presentation of upright normal, inverted normal, upright Thatcher-type, and inverted Thatcher-type faces. When the Thatcher-type face was presented, perceivers were found to be sensitive to the misoriented facial characteristics, causing them to perceive a weaker McGurk effect than when the normal face was presented (this is known as the McThatcher effect). Additionally, the McGurk effect was weaker in individuals with high AQ scores than in those with low AQ scores in the incongruent audiovisual condition, regardless of their ability to read lips or process facial configuration contexts. Our findings, therefore, do not support the assumption that individuals with ASD show a weaker McGurk effect due to a difficulty in processing facial configuration context.


Autism spectrum quotient McGurk effect Thatcher illusion 



We would like to express our gratitude to Dr. I. Dan and M. K. Yamaguchi. We would also like to thank all of the students who participated in our experiments. This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellows (Grant No. 26-8144) and Grant-in-Aid for Research Activity Start-up (Grant No. 16H0720). The research results have been achieved by “Research and development of technology for enhancing functional recovery of elderly and disabled people based on non-invasive brain imaging and robotic assistive devices”, the Commissioned Research of National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), Japan.

Author contributions

All authors contributed to construction of the study design. Testing and data collection were performed by YU and data analysis and interpretation were performed by YU under the supervision of TA and AW, SH drafted the manuscript, and TA and AW provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no competing financial interests to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research and Development InitiativeChuo UniversityBunkyoJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Advanced Integration ScienceChiba UniversityChibaJapan
  3. 3.Cognitive Mechanisms LaboratoriesAdvanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR)Keihanna ScienceJapan
  4. 4.Faculty of LettersChiba UniversityChibaJapan

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