The Nature Of Face Processing Impairments

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PY3003 – Autistic Spectrum Disorders What is the nature of face processing impairments in autism? Student ID: 1310023 Word count: 1257 Face processing deficits in ASD are not a result of inability – how well faces are processed – but rather a matter of mechanism – in what way this is accomplished. Although some have found no differences in performance compared to controls (Adolphs, Sears & Piven, 2001; Neumann et al., 2006; Celani et al., 1999), abnormalities on the behavioural (e.g. Langdell, 1978; Joseph & Tanaka, 2002;) and neural (Schultz et al., 2000; Pierce et al., 2001) level are consistently observed. Abnormalities might not always be detected, since autistic individuals could utilise compensatory mechanisms, thus performing similarly to controls on some tasks (Harms, Martin & Wallace, 2010). Methodological differences, higher-functioning and older samples, and lack of consistency in controls could also account for the conflicting results. Still, the literature mostly suggests that autistic people process faces in a qualitatively different manner. Insight into the causes of this alternative mechanism can help reverse its effects to an extent, or possibly diagnose autism earlier. Moreover, face processing deficits might underpin the social and affective difficulties associated with autism, in which case improving face processing abilities could ameliorate these difficulties. Understanding of the deficits’ causes is only possible in the context of typical face
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