Emotion recognition difficulties are considered to contribute to social-communicative problems for autistic individuals and awareness of such difficulties may be critical for the identification and pursuit of strategies that will mitigate their adverse effects. We examined metacognitive awareness of face emotion recognition responses in autistic (N = 63) and non-autistic (N = 67) adults across (a) static, dynamic and social face emotion stimuli, (b) free- and forced-report response formats, and (c) four different sets of the six “basic” and six “complex” emotions. Within-individual relationships between recognition accuracy and post-recognition confidence provided no indication that autistic individuals were poorer at discriminating correct from incorrect recognition responses than non-autistic individuals, although both groups exhibited marked inter-individual variability. Although the autistic group was less accurate and slower to recognize emotions, confidence-accuracy calibration analyses provided no evidence of reduced sensitivity on their part to fluctuations in their emotion recognition performance. Across variations in stimulus type, response format and emotion, increases in accuracy were associated with progressively higher confidence, with similar calibration curves for both groups. Calibration curves for both groups were, however, characterized by overconfidence at the higher confidence levels (i.e., overall accuracy less than the average confidence level), with the non-autistic group contributing more decisions with 90%–100% confidence. Comparisons of slow and fast responders provided no evidence of a “hard-easy” effect—the tendency to exhibit overconfidence during hard tasks and underconfidence during easy tasks—suggesting that autistic individuals' slower recognition responding may reflect a strategic difference rather than a processing speed limitation.
Lay Summary: It is generally considered that autistic individuals may have difficulty recognizing other people's facial emotions. However, little is known about their awareness of any emotion recognition difficulties they may experience. This study indicates that, although there is considerable individual variability, autistic adults were as sensitive to variations in the accuracy of their recognition of others' emotions as their non-autistic peers.
- autistic adults
- confidence-accuracy calibration
- emotion recognition
- metacognitive awareness