Rapid Facial Reactions to Emotional Facial Expressions in Typically Developing Children and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Document Type



Psychology (CMC)

Publication Date



Typical adults mimic facial expressions within 1000 ms, but adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) do not. These rapid facial reactions (RFRs) are associated with the development of social–emotional abilities. Such interpersonal matching may be caused by motor mirroring or emotional responses. Using facial electromyography (EMG), this study evaluated mechanisms underlying RFRs during childhood and examined possible impairment in children with ASD. Experiment 1 found RFRs to happy and angry faces (not fear faces) in 15 typically developing children from 7 to 12 years of age. RFRs of fear (not anger) in response to angry faces indicated an emotional mechanism. In 11 children (8–13 years of age) with ASD, Experiment 2 found undifferentiated RFRs to fear expressions and no consistent RFRs to happy or angry faces. However, as children with ASD aged, matching RFRs to happy faces increased significantly, suggesting the development of processes underlying matching RFRs during this period in ASD.

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© 2008 Elsevier Inc