The Nature of Face Processing Impairments in ASD

Subject: Mental Health
Type: Exploratory Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1016
Topics: Autism, Communication, Disease
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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that impedes the ability of an individual to interact and communicate with others (Lord et al., 2013). ASD, also known as Autism, is a defect characterised by impaired communicative and social behaviour and a hampered set of behaviour and interests. Even though the signs and the intellectual abilities of persons suffering from ASD vary from one individual to the next, all of them have trouble in social interactions including reacting to emotional cues from other people, eye contact and partaking reciprocal communications. ASD patients show symptoms of the condition such as failure to recognise their name and lack of attention to what others do or say that often present themselves from the first year of development (Lauritsen, 2013). By the time the young child is two or three years old, the impairments manifest themselves through facial recognition, social orientation, imitation, response to the display of emotions by other people and eye contact (Tanaka & Sung, 2016). The children have a problem with these activities since they have trouble attending to faces and processing the faces. ASD persons have a problem recognising faces and emotions displayed in faces, and this presents them with socialising challenges and communicating with other people in the society. This paper explores the static face perception versus moving face perception for persons with ASD and explores the extent to which the defects in face processing underlie social difficulties.

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The perception of facial and biological motion is commonly challenging for persons with ASD. Such people respond slowly to change in stimuli and especially about facial motion. People with ASD can recognise faces that are not in motion and are rather stagnant if they do not portray changing facial expressions (Campatelli et al., 2013). However, people with ASD show poor abilities at tasks or engagements that require them to differentiate between sequences, moving faces or upright and inverted faces (Oono, Honey & McConachie, 2013). Persons with ASD additionally have a problem at identifying and recognising upright facial expressions as the basis of identity (Greimel et al., 2014). Tanaka and Sung (2016) assert that persons living with autism disorder have a weakened neural mechanism that is responsible for the perception of facial motion. Thus, they respond slowly to the identification of face motions and subsequent facial emotions. Lord et al. (2013) affirm that people with ASD have an impaired facial motion perception and thus cannot use cues from moving faces to make differences of discriminations in a social context.

Persons with ASD have problems perceiving faces and emotions thus making communication a challenging process and exposing them to several social difficulties. Children with ASD, for example, display rigid or repetitive language that exposes them to ridicule from other children (Nomi & Uddin, 2015). According to Lauritsen (2013), it is a common occurrence for children with autism who can speak to utter words that do not make much sense or that do not align with the topic of conversation. Such scenarios expose such children to laughter and ridicule and potentially being categorised as dump by their peers. This is because other children can easily laugh at their incoherency of speech or at their failure to maintain track of the subject matter under discussion. Lauritsen (2013) asserts that such laughter and ridicule could result in low self-esteem and drive the children with ASD to avoid social setups where they may be vulnerable to ridicule and verbal slaughter.

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People with ASD have problems perceiving faces and emotions. Owing to this, they have trouble forging relationships and maintaining them as they are unable to perceive emotions of other people. This presents a problem when making friends, forging close ties with family and even forming and maintaining intimate relationships (Greimel et al., 2014). People with autism need help to integrate with the members of the family and to feel the necessary strong connection with them. This is additionally because they have immense challenges focusing on the entire social world from what they perceive through their sight to that which they hear (Nomi & Uddin, 2015). They thus have a problem understanding what other people are telling them and subsequently responding to the message. Most people that do not understand people with ASD impairment or who are uninformed of their condition lack the patience for communication to take place between them. Oono, Honey, and McConachie (2013) point out that people with ASD have the tendency of avoiding direct eye contact while interacting in the social scene and this often lends out the notion that they do not have interest in engaging in conversations, which is mostly not the case. The people they engage in conversations with thus mostly search for an exit from the conversation or engagement. The challenge of face perception and emotional reading challenges extends itself throughout the life of an individual living with ASD impairment thus they have fewer friends at home, school and later on at work thus most live a relatively lonely life (Campatelli et al., 2013). As compensation for lacking robust social life, ASD people focus more on their environment or objects in their environment.


ASD condition presents communication and social interaction challenges to those suffering from it. They have trouble perceiving faces and emotions. Such individuals can perceive faces that are not in motion relatively easily compared to faces in motion. However, they have a challenge in undertaking engagements that require them to differentiate between sequences, moving faces or upright and inverted faces. They have trouble reading facial expressions and thus are unable to pick emotional cues from moving faces. Since they have a challenge reading facial expressions and faces in general, persons with autism have varied social difficulties. Children with ASD have a problem with rigid language and repetitiveness and are often out of topic while contributing to discussions. People with ASD also have trouble forging and maintaining relationships. They have a challenge of connecting with family, friends, and colleagues and mostly learn to prefer solitude unless they receive help integrating with people in their environment.

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  1. Campatelli, G., Federico, R. R., Apicella, F., Sicca, F., & Muratori, F. (2013). Face processing in children with ASD: Literature review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7(3), 444-454.
  2. Greimel, E., Schulte-Rüther, M., Kamp-Becker, I., Remschmidt, H., Herpertz-Dahlmann, B., & Konrad, K. (2014). Impairment in face processing in autism spectrum disorder: a developmental perspective. Journal of Neural Transmission, 121(9), 1171-1181.
  3. Lauritsen, M. B. (2013). Autism spectrum disorders. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 22(1), 37-42.
  4. Lord, C., Cook, E. H., Leventhal, B. L., & Amaral, D. G. (2013). Autism spectrum disorders. Autism: The Science of Mental Health, 28(2), 217.
  5. Nomi, J. S., & Uddin, L. Q. (2015). Face processing in autism spectrum disorders: from brain regions to brain networks. Neuropsychologia, 71, 201-216.
  6. Oono, I. P., Honey, E. J., & McConachie, H. (2013). Parent‐mediated early intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Evidence‐Based Child Health: A Cochrane Review Journal, 8(6), 2380-2479.
  7. Tanaka, J. W., & Sung, A. (2016). The “eye avoidance” hypothesis of autism face processing. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(5), 1538-1552.
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