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People with autism, a disorder of social communication, show diminished attention to social stimuli. From deficiencies in eye contact and joint attention to pronounced difficulty discriminating facial expressions of emotion, the faces of others generally do not guide the attitudes and behaviors of people with autism in the same manner as they guide those of typically developing people. In everyday learning environments (at school, at home, in the community, etc.) others generate facial expressions as a meaningful source of feedback on individuals’ behavior and performance. People with autism are therefore missing out on valuable opportunities for implicit learning. The present study sought to conduct basic research to determine whether more intense faces were more socially facilitative of rule learning to children with autism than less intense faces. An iPad was utilized to create an ambiguous learning paradigm, where pairs of different colored shapes were presented to children with autism between the ages of 2 and twelve. When arbitrarily “correct” answers were chosen, a happy face was shown. When arbitrarily “incorrect” answers were chosen, a sad face was shown. Half of the children were exposed to high-valence faces, and half were exposed to low-valence faces. Results did not support experimental hypotheses; high-valence faces did not guide children more successfully than low-valence faces. A variety of operational challenges may account for the lack of significant results.
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Weil, Morgan Sylvie, "The Effects of High and Low Valence Affective Faces on Facilitation of Learning in Children with Autism" (2015). Senior Projects Spring 2015. 364.