Review: Posed vs. Genuine Facial Emotion Recognition and Expression in Autism and Implications for Intervention

Paula J. Webster, Shuo Wang, Xin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Different styles of social interaction are one of the core characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Social differences among individuals with ASD often include difficulty in discerning the emotions of neurotypical people based on their facial expressions. This review first covers the rich body of literature studying differences in facial emotion recognition (FER) in those with ASD, including behavioral studies and neurological findings. In particular, we highlight subtle emotion recognition and various factors related to inconsistent findings in behavioral studies of FER in ASD. Then, we discuss the dual problem of FER – namely facial emotion expression (FEE) or the production of facial expressions of emotion. Despite being less studied, social interaction involves both the ability to recognize emotions and to produce appropriate facial expressions. How others perceive facial expressions of emotion in those with ASD has remained an under-researched area. Finally, we propose a method for teaching FER [FER teaching hierarchy (FERTH)] based on recent research investigating FER in ASD, considering the use of posed vs. genuine emotions and static vs. dynamic stimuli. We also propose two possible teaching approaches: (1) a standard method of teaching progressively from simple drawings and cartoon characters to more complex audio-visual video clips of genuine human expressions of emotion with context clues or (2) teaching in a field of images that includes posed and genuine emotions to improve generalizability before progressing to more complex audio-visual stimuli. Lastly, we advocate for autism interventionists to use FER stimuli developed primarily for research purposes to facilitate the incorporation of well-controlled stimuli to teach FER and bridge the gap between intervention and research in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Article number653112
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 9 2021


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • emotion recognition
  • facial expression of emotion
  • posed vs. genuine emotion
  • social deficits


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