Ability of adults with autism spectrum disorder to identify emotions using visual and musical stimuli


Authors: Kaitlyn P Wilson and Janet Preis
Page Range: 201-210
Published in: International Journal on Disability and Human Development, Volume 17 Issue 2
ISSN: 2191-1231

ISBN: N/A Category:

Table of Contents


Social communication challenges, such as difficulty interpreting others’ emotions, are central to the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and are problematic across the lifespan. Neurological differences in adults with ASD have been found to underlie atypical processing of facial stimuli. Research suggests that music may assist individuals with ASD in tapping emotion. Study of the relationship between stimulus modality (visual vs. music) and emotion identification abilities in adults with ASD is in its infancy. This pilot study addressed the following questions: (a) What are the effects of group (ASD vs. non-ASD), stimulus modality (visual vs. music), and language category (expressive vs. receptive) on emotion identification performance? and (b) How do these variables interact to further explain emotion identification performance? Using a cross-sectional design, this study examined emotion identification abilities of 11 adults with ASD and 11 adults without ASD in response to visual and music stimuli. Results showed significant effects of group and stimulus modality on emotion identification, with additional interaction effects between variables. Both groups were most successful when presented with visual stimuli, and had the most difficulty identifying emotions presented musically, a task requiring concurrent processing of visual and auditory information. Adults with ASD, however, had a larger gap between their performance on visual and musical emotion identification tasks when compared to the adults without ASD. Results support the need for continued intervention for adults with ASD in the area of emotion processing, with possible treatment modalities and trajectories suggested.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, social communication, adult

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