The Animal in Me: Enhancing Emotion Recognition in Adolescents with Autism Using Animal Filters

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People with autism are often characterized as having difficulties with theory of mind abilities such as emotion recognition.However, rather than being a pervasive deficit of ‘mindblindness,’ a number of studies suggests these difficulties vary by context, and when people with autism mindread non-human agents, such as animals or cartoons, these abilities improve. To replicate this effect, 15 adolescents with both autism and intellectual disability participated in a test of facial emotion recognition,
with both human and animal faces. Participants performed significantly better on the animal version of the assessment compared to the human version, and human rather than animal scores were the strongest predictor of symptom severity. These results were shown to be primarily driven by improvement in recognition of the emotions happiness and anger in animal rather than human faces. Implications with regards to social motivation and theory of mind interventions are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Early online date26 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Aug 2019


  • Autism
  • Theory of Mind
  • Emotion Recognition
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Intellectual disability
  • Facial processing

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