15th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association

September 14-18, 2014

Can Adolescents with Autism Perceive Emotional Prosody?

Cristiane Hsu, Yi Xu

University College London, UK

Past findings on the perception of emotional prosody by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been incongruent, and a main reason is the lack of clarity about the contributions of specific acoustic features to emotion perception. In this study we test the perception of emotional prosody by adolescents with ASD using a recently developed prosody control method based on a bio-informational dimensions (BID) theory of emotion expressions. We synthesized a Mandarin sentence with different voice qualities using an articulatory synthesizer, and then acoustically manipulated their formant dispersion, median pitch and pitch range. With these utterances we compared the ability to perceive body size, emotion and attitude by high-functioning adolescents with ASD, typically developing adolescents and young adults. Results showed that the three groups made similar perceptual judgements, but the sensitivity of adolescents with ASD to the acoustic manipulations was lower than their typically developing peers, who in turn exhibited less sensitivity than young adults. These findings show that individuals with ASD have a reduced rather than a total lack of ability to perceive emotional prosody, suggesting a delay in their developmental trajectory. The findings also demonstrate the effectiveness of the BID-based method in testing perception of emotional prosody.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Hsu, Cristiane / Xu, Yi (2014): "Can adolescents with autism perceive emotional prosody?", In INTERSPEECH-2014, 1924-1928.