Expression and Understanding of Emotion in Atypical Development: Autism and Down Syndrome
Connie Kasari Marion Sigman
University of California, Los Angeles
Emotional expressions serve an integral role in communication. Facial expressions communicate to others particular feeling states. These communicated feeling states, in turn, influence others to respond. For example, mothers are motivated to respond differentially to positive versus negative facial expressions of their infants ( Huebner & Izard, 1988; Malatesta & Haviland, 1982). Even children modify their behavior in response to other's expressions ( Izard & Malatesta, 1987). Thus, facial expressions of emotion can have a potent effect on the behavior of others.
A disruption in this emotional signaling system can have a deleterious effect on social interactions. This effect is dramatically illustrated by children whose emotional expressions are delayed or different. For example, a delay in the onset of infant smiling may cause the mother to interact less with her child (Field, 1980). Deviance in expressive behavior (e.g., expressions that do not fit the situation) can seriously hamper the caregiver's ability to "read" the child's expressions ( Goldberg, 1977). Thus, both delay and deviance in expressive behavior may directly affect the interactive behavior of the social partner with possible long-term, cumulative effects.
Disruptions in the signaling system may also result in indirect influences on social interactions. The infant who does not smile within the expected