Visual Search Abilities in Children with Autism: Are Facial Expressions Special?

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Communication Sciences and Disorders


Janet Ford


Speech therapy

Subject Categories

Communication Sciences and Disorders | Speech Pathology and Audiology


Social exchanges often require a speaker to quickly respond to reactions of multiple individuals. The face in the crowd effect occurs when a specific facial expression pops out within a group of faces due to a discrepant feature, facilitating facial expression identification. The current study investigated the face in the crowd effect in children with typical development (TD) and children with autism (ASD) aged 10-12. Participants identified a discrepant facial expression (happy or angry) in crowds of 4, 8 and 12. Additionally, the study determined whether children with ASD were faster than children with TD when performing traditional visual search tasks (colors and shapes). Results of this study suggest that children with ASD are significantly slower than children with TD on traditional serial search tasks and face in the crowd experimental tasks. The results do not support the face in the crowd effect when using actual photographs of facial expressions.


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