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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Remmel, Ethan

Second Advisor

Hyman, Ira E.

Third Advisor

Lemm, Kristi M., 1971-

Fourth Advisor

Symons, Larry


Although high-functioning autistic individuals demonstrate normative intelligence, profound deficits in social processing exist. Understanding emotions in faces can be particularly difficult for autistic individuals. In the present research a priming task was used to uncover the speed and strength of association between emotional faces and emotional words. Autistic individuals are often capable of explicitly recognizing emotion in faces but still demonstrate difficulty interpreting emotional situations. In the current study, emotional words were primed by quickly presented matching or mismatching emotional faces. This may be more similar to naturalistic social interactions in which facial expressions change quickly. The aim was to examine any differences in reaction times and error rates in the priming task between high-functioning autistic children and typical children. Groups were divided into older (8-16 years) and younger (7-11 years) groups to examine any developmental differences that might exist between the two groups. Overall, no priming effects were seen across groups. Younger typical children, however, did seem to be influenced by mismatching prime-target pairs. This may point to a differential developmental trajectory in face and emotion processing between autistic and typical children, as typical children were more influenced by face primes than were older and younger autistic children and older typical children.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Autism in children; Emotions and cognition; Facial expression; Nonverbal communication




masters theses




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