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Frontiers in Psychology


Autism, Theory of mind, Emotion recognition, Social synchrony, Social motor skill


Difficulty in social communication and interaction is a primary diagnostic feature of ASD. Research has found that adolescents with ASD display various impairments in social behavior such as theory of mind (ToM), emotion recognition, and social synchrony. However, not much is known about the relationships among these dimensions of social behavior. Adolescents with and without ASD participated in the study. ToM ability was measured by viewing social animations of geometric shapes, recognition of facial emotions was measured by viewing pictures of faces, and synchrony ability was measured with a spontaneously arising interpersonal movement task completed with a caregiver and an intentional interpersonal task. Attention and social responsiveness were measured using parent reports. We then examined the relationship between ToM, emotion recognition, clinical measures of attention and social responsiveness, and social synchronization that arises either spontaneously or intentionally. Results indicate that spontaneous synchrony was related to ToM and intentional synchrony was related to clinical measures of attention and social responsiveness. Facial emotion recognition was not related to either ToM or social synchrony. Our findings highlight the importance of biological motion perception and production and attention for more fully understanding the social behavior characteristic of ASD. The findings suggest that the processes underlying difficulties in spontaneous synchrony in ASD are different than the processes underlying difficulties in intentional synchronization.

Grant Information

This research was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant R01GM105045 and University of Massachusetts Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Assumption College Collaborative Pilot Research Program (CPRP) Grant.



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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