Attention allocation to facial expressions of emotion among persons with Williams and Down syndromes

Karen J. Goldman*, Cory Shulman, Yair Bar-Haim, Rany Abend, Jacob A. Burack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Individuals with Williams syndrome and those with Down syndrome are both characterized by heightened social interest, although the manifestation is not always similar. Using a dot-probe task, we examined one possible source of difference: allocation of attention to facial expressions of emotion. Thirteen individuals with Williams syndrome (mean age = 19.2 years, range = 10-28.6), 20 with Down syndrome (mean age = 18.8 years, range = 12.1-26.3), and 19 typically developing children participated. The groups were matched for mental age (mean = 5.8 years). None of the groups displayed a bias to angry faces. The participants with Williams syndrome showed a selective bias toward happy faces, whereas the participants with Down syndrome behaved similarly to the typically developing participants with no such bias. Homogeneity in the direction of bias was markedly highest in the Williams syndrome group whose bias appeared to result from enhanced attention capture. They appeared to rapidly and selectively allocate attention toward positive facial expressions. The complexity of social approach behavior and the need to explore other aspects of cognition that may be implicated in this behavior in both syndromes is discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1189-1197
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright Cambridge University Press 2016.


Dive into the research topics of 'Attention allocation to facial expressions of emotion among persons with Williams and Down syndromes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this