Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Living Edition
| Editors: Fred R. Volkmar

Reduced Prioritization of Facial Threat in ASD

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6435-8_102375-1



Threat perception involves the rapid detection of potentially harmful stimuli within the environment. Typically developing (TD) individuals demonstrate a robust “threat superiority effect,” in which they detect threatening stimuli amongst nonthreatening stimuli faster and with greater accuracy than vice versa (for a review, see LoBue and Rakison 2013). The prioritization of threatening stimuli is adaptive, facilitates biological readiness and self-protection, and occurs for dangers that are both ancient (e.g., snakes) and more modern (e.g., guns). People, of course, can also be a source of threat and not surprisingly threatening emotional expressions such as anger, and even threatening faces lacking emotion like those that are hypermasculine and perceived as aggressive (Shasteen et al. 2015) are detected more quickly and with more accuracy by TD individuals than are nonthreatening faces (Pinkham et al. 2010).


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References and Reading

  1. LoBue, V., & Rakison, D. H. (2013). What we fear most: A developmental advantage for threat-relevant stimuli. Developmental Review, 33(4), 285–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Pinkham, A. E., Griffin, M., Baron, R., Sasson, N. J., & Gur, R. C. (2010). The face in the crowd effect: Anger superiority when using real faces and multiple identities. Emotion, 10(1), 141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Sasson, N. J., Shasteen, J. R., & Pinkham, A. E. (2016). Brief report: Reduced prioritization of facial threat in adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(4), 1471–1476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Shasteen, J. R., Sasson, N. J., & Pinkham, A. E. (2015). A detection advantage for facial threat in the absence of anger. Emotion, 15(6), 837.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Weiss, J. A., & Fardella, M. A. (2018). Victimization and perpetration experiences of adults with autism. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9, 203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA