Comprehension of affect in children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders: Specific deficits in perceptual matching tasks
This study compared the performance of children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) to that of two control groups: one matched by Verbal Mental age (VMC) and one by Performance Mental age (PMC) on tests designed to assess the perception of faces, facial expression, and affective situations. Children with PDD had more difficulty selecting the appropriate facial expressions for cartoons depicting social interactions compared to the PMC group but not the VMC group. However, they did not differ from either control group on a comparable test which excluded the affective component. Moreover, children with PDD showed specific areas of difficulty in their perception of faces and facial expressions. For example, they had more difficulty matching non-identical faces relative to identical faces, and tended to match by identity rather than facial expression. These findings suggest that these children possess specific deficits in processing affective/perceptual material. Future research might include the use of more ecologically valid measures to allow manipulation of additional variables that are likely to influence the comprehension of affective stimuli.