Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 5, pp 1039–1054 | Cite as

Face and Object Discrimination in Autism, and Relationship to IQ and Age

  • Pamela M. Pallett
  • Shereen J. Cohen
  • Karen R. Dobkins
Original Paper


The current study tested fine discrimination of upright and inverted faces and objects in adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as compared to age- and IQ-matched controls. Discrimination sensitivity was tested using morphed faces and morphed objects, and all stimuli were equated in low-level visual characteristics (luminance, contrast, spatial frequency make-up). Participants with ASD exhibited slight, non-significant impairments in discrimination sensitivity for faces, yet significantly enhanced discrimination sensitivity for objects. The ASD group also showed a protracted development of face and object inversion effects. Finally, for ASD participants, face sensitivity improved with increasing IQ while object sensitivity improved with age. By contrast, for controls, face sensitivity improved with age, but neither face nor object sensitivity was influenced by IQ. These findings suggest that individuals with ASD follow a qualitatively different path in the development of face and object processing abilities.


Autism Spectrum Disorders Face processing Object processing Inversion effects Adolescents Development 



This work was funded by NIH/NICHD R01 HD052804-01A2 awarded to Karen Dobkins.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pamela M. Pallett
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shereen J. Cohen
    • 2
  • Karen R. Dobkins
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, 0109University of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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