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Psychology talk with Dr. Ipek Oruc
WhenFriday, Aug 25, 2017, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Campus locationGuthrie Hall (GTH)
Campus room79
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsDepartment of Psychology……

Ipek Oruc
Professor, University of British Columbia

Are Face Perception Deficits and Social Dysfunction Associated in Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder characterized by social-communication difficulties as well as restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests (APA, 2013). Research on visual processing in ASD has uncovered areas of strengths as well as weaknesses in this group. Evidence suggests that while lower-level visual processing is generally intact or superior in ASD compared to controls, face recognition is diminished in tasks relating to identity and expression. Several face training programs have been introduced with the premise that improving face abilities may improve social competence for individuals on the spectrum. Indeed, some pathophysiological models of ASD postulate a causal relationship between the social deficits and face perception problems (e.g., Schultz 2005). Such a model would predict variation in face abilities among individuals with ASD to be associated with variation in social competence. We examined this link for facial identity and expression processing in a group of adults with (N=27) and without ASD (N=27) matched on age and non-verbal IQ. Two tasks related to facial identity were employed: Face memory was assessed with the Cambridge Face Memory Test. Face-specific perception was examined via recognition contrast thresholds for face (vs. house) stimuli in a five-alternative forced-choice psychophysical paradigm (Shafai & Oruc, 2017). Regarding facial expression processing, we measured discrimination thresholds between pairs of happy, sad and angry expressions in a two-interval forced-choice paradigm. We assessed social competence using the Multidimensional Social Competence Scale (MSCS) (Yager & Iarocci, 2013) and autism symptoms with the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). General intelligence was assessed using Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI-II). Our results show that facial expression -- but not identity -- performance was associated with social competence and symptom severity. These findings have implications on rehabilitation efforts using face training programs that typically employ both identity and expression training.

This lecture is made possible in part by a generous Endowment by the family of Allen. L. Edwards.

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