Face-like pareidolia images are more difficult to detect than real faces in children with autism spectrum disorder


Advances in clinical and experimental medicine : official organ Wroclaw Medical University, vol.33, no.1, pp.13-19, 2024 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier


BACKGROUND: Research on the diagnosis, treatment and pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders is multifaceted, requiring the use of genetics, imaging, psychology, and artificial intelligence (AI). Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a limited ability to communicate and a limited interest in social environments. Facial recognition is really important in daily life. Seeing faces in unusual objects, e.g., a face in a cloud, is called face pareidolia. OBJECTIVES: Although more evidence points to a greater role of genetic factors in ASD, neuropsychological tests have an important role in diagnosing ASD. The aim of the study was to investigate how face perception is processed in children with autism using a new digital test that consists of faces and pareidolia images. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Twenty typically developing (TD) children (8 male, 12 female) between 6 and 16 years of age and 21 children with ASD (14 male, 7 female) between 6 and 14 years of age were included in the study. A new neuropsychological test called the digital pareidolia test was administered to the participants. The study consisted of 2 stages: a face condition and a pareidolia condition. RESULTS: Our results showed that children with autism (n = 21) were less successful in identifying both face and pareidolia images, and were slower to react in both conditions than children from the TD group. Both children with ASD and the TD group reacted faster to face images than pareidolia images. CONCLUSIONS: The findings in this study are in agreement with atypical and different face perceptions in autism which cause social difficulties. We demonstrated that the digital face and pareidolia test has considerable potential for use as a neuropsychological test that can specify the diagnosis and progression of autism in subclinical areas. Pareidolia faces and real faces are processed in a common way.