I have often looked at photos of my son and said, "Oh that's not his real smile" or "there is that smile, that one's for real."
I recently came across a study titled Brief Report: Perception of Genuine and Posed Smiles by Individuals with Autism I immediately thought of my own son and could see in my mind both of his smiles, the genuine and the posed, each very evident. So I began to read the study by Zillah L. Boraston, Ben Corden, Lynden K. Miles, David H. Skuse and
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. How did they study this and what were the conclusions? As a mom I had to know more.
They began by gather groups and organizing them, they "tested 18 individuals with autism (15 males) and 18
control subjects (15 males), matched for age. They introduced Stimuli "Three photographs of each individual
were used: a neutral facial expression, a genuine smile and a posed smile."
There were two procedures random and controlled, "Participants were asked to make a decision about whether the smile in each photograph was real or posed." "Participants were askedwhether the facial expression in each photograph was smiling or neutral. This control task was chosen because it
involved making judgements about the same set of faces as in the Smiles condition.
The order of presentation of the faces in both conditionswas random, and the order in which the Smiles and Control conditions occurred was counterbalanced across participants."
It is a little difficult to understand at first but then we move in to the tracking of data involved in the study. This is where it becomes interesting again. Eye-Tracking methods measuring. "During the task, participants’ eye movements were recorded using an ASL6000 series remote eye-tracker, in conjunction with a video head tracker." Collection of data included, two types of gaze and fixation were measured.
"The results suggest that, compared with matched controls, individuals with autism show
an impairment in the discrimination of posed from genuine smiles" This doesn't shock anyone. We all know that Autism is associated mostly with a persons in-ability to read "social cues" and facial expressions.
"The ability to distinguish a real from a posed smile
has an obvious significance in everyday social interaction,
as it is linked to the understanding of another’s mental
state, perhaps even a higher-order mental state, as a posed
smile can indicate the pretence of happiness or pleasure.
Failure to identify these subtle facial cues could conceiv-
ably lead to difficulties in social interaction—for example,
impaired judgement in social situations, or an inability to
‘take the hint’ or ‘read between the lines,’ similar to
reported deficits in the interpretation of non-literal lan-
guage, including irony, in autism. We did not measure social interaction
skills in the control group, so it is unclear whether an
inability to recognise a posed smile would also impact on
social interaction in individuals without autism"
So I learned some interesting things about autism and smiles. I also know that a smile is something people can feel, not only see. So when I approach another human being, whether I believe they are autistic or not, I smile. I smile so they can feel it.
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