Comprehensive Social Trait Judgments From Faces in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Runnan Cao, Na Zhang, Hongbo Yu, Paula J. Webster, Lynn K. Paul, Xin Li, Chujun Lin, Shuo Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Processing social information from faces is difficult for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, it remains unclear whether individuals with ASD make high-level social trait judgments from faces in the same way as neurotypical individuals. Here, we comprehensively addressed this question using naturalistic face images and representatively sampled traits. Despite similar underlying dimensional structures across traits, online adult participants with self-reported ASD showed different judgments and reduced specificity within each trait compared with neurotypical individuals. Deep neural networks revealed that these group differences were driven by specific types of faces and differential utilization of features within a face. Our results were replicated in well-characterized in-lab participants and partially generalized to more controlled face images (a preregistered study). By investigating social trait judgments in a broader population, including individuals with neurodevelopmental variations, we found important theoretical implications for the fundamental dimensions, variations, and potential behavioral consequences of social cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1121-1145
Number of pages25
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • face perception
  • facial feature
  • open data
  • open materials
  • preregistered
  • social trait judgment


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