Exploring factors related to the anger superiority effect in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Despite face and emotion recognition deficits, individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) appear to experience the anger superiority effect, where an angry face in a crowd is detected faster than a neutral face. This study extended past research to examine the impacts of ecologically valid photographic stimuli, gender and anxiety symptoms on the anger superiority effect in children with and without ASD. Participants were 81, 7–12 year old children, 42 with ASD matched on age, gender and perceptual IQ to 39 typically developing (TYP) children. The photographic stimuli did not impact on task performance in ASD with both groups exhibiting the anger superiority effect. There were no gender differences and no associations with anxiety. Age was associated with the effect in the TYP but not ASD group. These findings confirm a robust effect of speeded detection of threat in ASD which does not appear to be confounded by gender or anxiety, but may have different underlying age-associated mechanisms.

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