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The role of pattern extrapolation in the perception of dynamic facial expressions in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Palumbo, Letizia; Macinska, Sylwia T.; Jellema, Tjeerd


Letizia Palumbo

Sylwia T. Macinska


Changes in the intensity and type of facial expressions reflect alterations in the emotional state of the agent. Such "direct" access to the other's affective state might, top-down, influence the perception of the facial expressions that gave rise to the affective state inference. Previously, we described a perceptual bias occurring when the last, neutral, expression of offsets of facial expressions (joy-to-neutral and anger-to-neutral), was evaluated. Individuals with high-functioning autism (HFA) and matched typically developed (TD) individuals rated the neutral expression at the end of the joy-offset videos as slightly angry and the identical neutral expression at the end of the anger-offset videos as slightly happy ("overshoot" bias). That study suggested that the perceptual overshoot response bias in the TD group could be best explained by top-down "emotional anticipation," i.e., the involuntary/automatic anticipation of the agent's next emotional state of mind, generated by the immediately preceding perceptual history (low-level mind reading). The experimental manipulations further indicated that in the HFA group the "overshoot" was better explained by contrast effects between the first and last facial expressions, both presented for a relatively long period of 400 ms. However, in principle, there is another, more parsimonious, explanation, which is pattern extrapolation or representational momentum (RM): the extrapolation of a pattern present in the dynamic sequence. This hypothesis is tested in the current study, in which 18 individuals with HFA and a matched control group took part. In a base-line condition, joy-offset and anger-offset video-clips were presented. In the new experimental condition, the clips were modified so as to create an offset-onset-offset pattern within each sequence (joy-to-anger-to-neutral and anger-to-joy-to-neutral). The final neutral expressions had to be evaluated. The overshoot bias was confirmed in the base-line condition for both TD and HFA groups, while the experimental manipulation removed the bias in both groups. This outcome ruled out pattern extrapolation or RM as explanation for the perceptual "overshoot" bias in the HFA group and suggested a role for facial contrast effects in HFA. This is compatible with the view that ASD individuals tend to lack the spontaneous "tracking" of changes in the others' affective state and hence show no or reduced emotional anticipation.


Palumbo, L., Macinska, S. T., & Jellema, T. (2018). The role of pattern extrapolation in the perception of dynamic facial expressions in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, Article 1918.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 18, 2018
Online Publication Date Oct 15, 2018
Publication Date Oct 15, 2018
Deposit Date May 15, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Frontiers in Psychology
Electronic ISSN 1664-1078
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Article Number 1918
Keywords Dynamic facial expressions; Perceptual distortions; Pattern extrapolation; Emotional anticipation; Embodied simulation
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Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2018 Palumbo, Macinska and Jellema. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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