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.
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