Face Processing in Autism

Sara Jane Webb, Susan Faja and Geraldine Dawson

in Oxford Handbook of Face Perception

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199559053
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Face Processing in Autism


Face processing and its role in the social phenotype of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has gained a significant amount of attention in the past decade. The components involved in the processing and use of information from the face represent a network of systems that are complex. This article shows that face processing is neither a simple process nor one that is universally abnormal in individuals with autism. Several complementary processes that may contribute to impairment in face processing in individuals with autism are described. It includes lower-level visual processing, visual attention, early-stage processing of faces, memory for faces, and the emotional significance of faces. The variability in performance on face processing tasks by individuals with ASD reflects an underlying variability in ability in face processing in the ASD spectrum, making face processing a model system for understanding the nature of social impairment in ASD.

Keywords: face processing; autism spectrum disorders; lower-level visual processing; visual attention; social impairment

Article.  10909 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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