ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (4): 528-539.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00528

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  1. (杭州师范大学教育学院心理学系, 杭州 310036)
  • 收稿日期:2013-04-09 发布日期:2014-04-25 出版日期:2014-04-25
  • 通讯作者: 马伟娜
  • 基金资助:


Emotional Empathy in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence from Biofeedback Measurement and Eye Movements

MA Weina;ZHU Beibei   

  1. Department of Psychology, College of Education, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou 310036, Chin
  • Received:2013-04-09 Online:2014-04-25 Published:2014-04-25
  • Contact: MA Weina


研究探讨了孤独症儿童的情绪共情能力及情绪表情注意方式的特点。各选取15名孤独症儿童以及作为对照组的智力障碍儿童和普通儿童各15名, 完成情绪共情实验, 同时使用生物反馈仪记录自主生理反应, 眼动仪记录眼动轨迹。结果发现孤独症儿童对情绪表情的自动模仿及感知能力显著低于智力障碍儿童与普通儿童; 对面孔的总注视时间、总注视点数均显著少于智力障碍儿童、普通儿童; 对眼部、嘴部的注视时间比及注视点数比均显著低于普通儿童; 对高兴和悲伤表情的注意较多而对恐惧则较少。这提示孤独症儿童的情绪共情能力不足、对情绪表情的注意方式异常。

关键词: 孤独症儿童, 情绪共情, 眼动, 自主生理反应


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are considered as a series of pervasive developmental disorders, and characterized by deficits in social interaction, delays and deviance in communication, and repetitive behaviors, rituals and interests. Emotional empathy refers to unconscious experience of emotions consistent with and in response to those of others and imitation of the facial expression, induced by shared representations of perception and emotional contagion. Eye-tracking studies have demonstrated that the visual fixation patterns of children with autism in social situations differ from normal patterns. Children with autism do not seem to attend spontaneously to salient features of the social stimulus in the way that most people do. It is possible that this reflects an attentional style that limits empathic arousal. Children with autism, relative to typically developing children, focused less on the eye region of faces when viewing social stimulus, because they avoid eye contact with others in order to decrease arousal. Previous studies explored emotional empathic responses to affective stimuli in children with ASD, but their results are inconsistent. The present research was designed to investigate the emotional empathy and the face scanning patterns of children with ASD using biofeedback measurement and eye-tracking. Fifteen children with ASD, fifteen typically developing (TD) children, and fifteen children with intellectual disability (ID) viewed eighty emotional faces with happiness, sadness, fear and anger from the Chinese Facial Affective Picture System (each emotional category consists of twenty pictures). Facial electromyography (EMG) activity, eye movements and automatic physiological responses, including skin conductance (SCR), skin temperature (TEMP) and PLUS, were recorded during the experiment. Comparing with typically developing children, children with ASD demonstrated atypical processing patterns of emotional faces with reduced responses of automatic facial EMG, and automatic physiological (SCRs, TEMP, PLUS). This suggested that a failure to perceive emotional faces in children with ASD. Furthermore, results of eye-tracking showed that the children with ASD less viewed the eye areas than the typically developing children. At the same time, the fixation time and fixation counts of face for children with ASD were significantly less than the intellectual disability group and the typically children group. The fixation time of fear faces for children with ASD was significantly less than the happy faces and sad faces. This suggested that the limited eye gaze for emotional faces in children with ASD. The results suggest that a failure to orient to emotional relevant stimuli (four basic emotional faces: happiness, sadness, fear and anger) may be caused by the lower fixation time to the eye areas, and avoidance of emotional stimulus may become the default coping mechanism for some individuals with autism. In conclusion, the current study demonstrates deficits in emotional empathy and limited eye gaze in children with ASD, which may be contributing to their problems in the face scanning patterns.

Key words: children with autism, emotional empathy, eye tracking, automatic physiological responses