A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Fall, 2020 | Number 4, Volume 34

Meta-analysis indicates that facial recognition is a significant problem in ASD

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have significant impairments in facial recognition, according to a recent meta-analysis. 

Jason Griffin and colleagues analyzed data from 112 studies conducted over the past 40 years. The researchers say, “Our findings indicate that people with ASD struggle to process information about the identity of a face. This deficit is large, such that on average 80.5% of ASD individuals perform worse than typical individuals on tests of face identity processing. This impairment likely contributes to ASD-specific difficulties with social interaction, which requires the ability to identify social partners as unique individuals.” 

Study coauthor Suzy Scherf comments, “When someone we know doesn’t recognize us, it can generate a negative reaction. With this finding about poor face recognition skills in autism, people can be more understanding and provide autistic individuals with supports to assist in their social interactions.”


“A quantitative meta-analysis of face recognition deficits in autism: 40 years of research,” J. W. Griffin, R. Bauer, and K. S. Scherf, Psychological Bulletin, October 2020 (online). Address: Suzy Scherf, Department of Psychology, 113 Moore Building, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, [email protected]


“People with autism may have large deficits in facial recognition, news release, Pennsylvania State University, October 28, 2020.