Face processing in autism

Insights from the perceptual expertise framework

Kim M. Curby*, Verena Willenbockel, James W. Tanaka, Robert T. Schultz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Citations (Scopus)


Although persons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a range of cognitive impairments, their perceptual abilities are generally preserved, with the notable exception of face perception. This deficit goes beyond face recognition and discrimination to include impairments processing emotion, gaze direction, and gender, and may contribute to the social impairments associated with ASD. Atypical face processing is evident in behavioral measures of processing strategy, as well as electrophysiological and neuroimaging data. The absence of perceptual expertise with faces may arise from reduced and abnormal experience with faces across the course of development, potentially caused by a combination of visuocognitive and socioaffective abnormalities. This notion is supported by results of training interventions, where persons with ASD aretrained to become "face experts" using training protocols that have been successful for teaching other forms of object expertise.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerceptual expertise
Subtitle of host publicationBridging brain and behavior
EditorsIsabel Gauthier, Michael Tarr, Daniel Bub
Place of PublicationOxford; New York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)9780195309607
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes

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    Curby, K. M., Willenbockel, V., Tanaka, J. W., & Schultz, R. T. (2010). Face processing in autism: Insights from the perceptual expertise framework. In I. Gauthier, M. Tarr, & D. Bub (Eds.), Perceptual expertise: Bridging brain and behavior (pp. 139-166). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195309607.003.0006