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Spontaneous Facial Mimicry is Modulated by Joint Attention and Autistic Traits.

Neufeld, Janina and Ioannou, Christina and Korb, Sebastian and Schilbach, Leonhard and Chakrabarti, Bhismadev (2016) 'Spontaneous Facial Mimicry is Modulated by Joint Attention and Autistic Traits.' Autism Research, 9 (7). pp. 781-789. ISSN 1939-3792

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Joint attention (JA) and spontaneous facial mimicry (SFM) are fundamental processes in social interactions, and they are closely related to empathic abilities. When tested independently, both of these processes have been usually observed to be atypical in individuals with autism spectrum conditions (ASC). However, it is not known how these processes interact with each other in relation to autistic traits. This study addresses this question by testing the impact of JA on SFM of happy faces using a truly interactive paradigm. Sixty-two neurotypical participants engaged in gaze-based social interaction with an anthropomorphic, gaze-contingent virtual agent. The agent either established JA by initiating eye contact or looked away, before looking at an object and expressing happiness or disgust. Eye tracking was used to make the agent's gaze behavior and facial actions contingent to the participants' gaze. SFM of happy expressions was measured by Electromyography (EMG) recording over the Zygomaticus Major muscle. Results showed that JA augments SFM in individuals with low compared with high autistic traits. These findings are in line with reports of reduced impact of JA on action imitation in individuals with ASC. Moreover, they suggest that investigating atypical interactions between empathic processes, instead of testing these processes individually, might be crucial to understanding the nature of social deficits in autism.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Face; Humans; Emotions; Empathy; Interpersonal Relations; Attention; Autistic Disorder; Child; Facial Recognition
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2021 13:01
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:09

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