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The Production and Perception of Facial Expressions by Infants at High-Risk for an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Hannigen, Sarah F. (2014) The Production and Perception of Facial Expressions by Infants at High-Risk for an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) display atypical production and perception of emotion. Infant sibling studies, longitudinal assessments of infants with (i.e., high risk) and without (i.e., low-risk) an older sibling with ASD, have reported that the production of social smiles may indicate ASD as early as 12 months of age. Still, little is known about the nature of HR and low-risk (LR) infants’ emotion development prior to 12 months. The current study explores HR and LR infants’ facial expression production and perception at 6 and 11 months of age. The social signals of emotion produced by 26 HR 6-month-olds, 24 LR 6-month-olds, 24 HR 11-month-olds, and 33 LR 11-month-olds were measured in the context of face-to-face interaction with their mothers. Results indicated that increased positive affect at 6 months may characterize HR infants later diagnosed with ASD (HR-ASD infants), while increased looking to mother at 6 months and increased positive affect at 11 months may characterize HR infants with no known diagnosis of ASD (HR-no ASD). Eye-tracking methods were utilized to measure visual attention to smile/neutral face pairings displayed by 31 HR 6-month-olds, 28 LR 6-month-olds, 37 HR 11-month-olds, and 32 LR 11-month-olds. Results revealed that increased visual attention to the whole stimulus and the internal features of the face at 6 months may characterize HR infants as a whole (i.e., HR-no ASD and HR-ASD). Taken together, these findings suggest that emotion production and perception help define the early phenotype of HR infants. Increased positive affect and looking to affective stimuli observed in the HR sample are discussed as possible indicators of arousal regulation and visual disengagement difficulty. All findings are discussed from the theoretical framework of transactional models of child development and experience-expectant model of emotion development.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hannigen, Sarah
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairStrauss, Mark S.strauss@pitt.eduSTRAUSS
Committee MemberCampbell, Susansbcamp@pitt.eduSBCAMP
Committee MemberBrownell, Celiabrownell@pitt.eduBROWNELL
Committee MemberPogue-Geile, Michaelmfpg@pitt.eduMFPG
Committee MemberWilliams,
Committee MemberMazefsky, Carlamazefskyca@upmc.eduCAM150
Date: 18 September 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 13 September 2013
Approval Date: 18 September 2014
Submission Date: 16 July 2014
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 179
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: autism spectrum disorders, infancy, infant sibling studies, emotion, perception
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2014 14:47
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2016 14:41


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