“Please Draw Me a Face…” Atypical Face Mental Concept in Autism


Autism is a severe neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by early manifestations of social difficulties and atypical sensory-based behaviors. As faces are essential for social interaction, they have been widely investigated in autism, revealing disruptions in face processing. Cognitive theories argue that people with autism process the world differently, showing a processing bias for local information. However, the literature currently neglects the mental representation of faces, or face concept, in people with ASD. The current study sought to establish how young children with ASD “see” a human face. A key question is whether this face concept is a function of cognitive style and/or sensory impairment. By comparing simple face drawings in young children with ASD, with those of deaf children and controls, we highlight an atypical face concept in ASD that does not show, however, global processing deficits: face drawing presents a preserved overall configuration. The atypical face drawings in children with ASD showed similarities with those of deaf children: eyes were not an essential feature, whereas a marked interest for ears and non-facial external features (accessories, body parts) was shown. These findings suggest that the face mental concept in ASD may be impacted by sensory processing deficits.

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Meaux, E. , Bakhos, D. , Bonnet-Brilhault, F. , Gillet, P. , Lescanne, E. , Barthélémy, C. & Batty, M. (2014). “Please Draw Me a Face…” Atypical Face Mental Concept in Autism. Psychology, 5, 1392-1403. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.511150.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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