Date of Submission

Spring 2017

Academic Programs and Concentrations


Project Advisor 1

Stuart Levine

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) falls on the high-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. AS is often characterized by a deficit in social/emotional/facial processing, resistance to change, and routine and repetitive behaviors and interests. Prior research has uncovered that AS individuals process faces in a detail-oriented piecemeal fashion, rather than holistically. They are also found to pay less visual attention to faces and social stimuli. Theoretical explanations that account for this particular functioning and processing style include Weak Central Coherence Theory (WCC) and Hyper-Systemizing Theory. WCC implies that AS individuals do not process instances within context, which contributes to their inability to process many aspects involved with socialization. Hyper-Systemizing Theory implies that AS individuals have a systemization mechanism that is set too high. This hyper-systemization lends itself to a reliance upon predictable systems, which leaves no room for the unpredictable and highly variable nature of socialization. AS individuals also demonstrate devout attention and obsession-like qualities towards their specific object of interest. The content of their obsession often falls under the domain of folk physics: an interest and understanding in how the physical world works. All of these qualities suggest the need for an individualized facial/emotional recognition intervention. Implications regarding well-being and daily functioning are discussed. This study proposes that an obsession-matched intervention will improve AS participant’s scores on a facial/emotional recognition test (Cambridge Mindreading Face-Voice Battery Test for Children [CAM-C]), as well as capture their attention. Participants include 80 AS male children between the ages of 6 and 11, who are obsessed with either clocks or trains. Participants view either an obsession-specific intervention or a non-obsession specific intervention, once a week, for 16 weeks. Eye-tracking technology is used during viewing periods to capture their fixation durations, which is quantified as attention. This intervention is an altered version of the highly efficient “The Transporters” intervention (Baron-Cohen, Golan, & Ashwin, 2009). Scores on the CAM-C are recorded pre and post intervention viewing period. Proposed results reveal that participants who were in the obsession-specific intervention had significantly higher post intervention CAM-C scores, than their pre intervention scores (p

Key words: autism, asperger’s syndrome, intervention, obsessions, circumscribed interests, facial recognition, emotion recognition, socialization.

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