The English idiom “You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover” is a metaphorical phrase which means that you shouldn't form an opinion about someone based on their outward appearance or other external factors. A study published in the journal Autismfound that typically-developing children formed their impressions of their peers with autismspectrum disorder (ASD) in as little as 30 seconds.
Researchers investigated the friendship ratings given by 44 typically developing children to videos of children with ASD. The children making friendship judgments were unaware that they were rating children with ASD. These ratings were then compared to friendship ratings given to video clips of typically developing children. The 44 child participants rated peers with ASD lower than typically developing children on all aspects of friendship measures. Children with ASD were rated not as trustworthy as the typically-developing children in the videos. Moreover, study participants were less likely to say that they wanted to play with or be friends with the video subjects on the spectrum. These results suggest that impression formation is less positive towards children with ASD than towards typically developing children even when exposure time is brief.
The findings of this study have important implications for intervention in the school context. Children with ASD experience more peer rejection and have fewer friendships than their typically developing peers. Limited facial expressivity may further remove children with ASD from meaningful interactions and reciprocal emotional relatedness with others. Negative peer responses can be especially upsetting for more socially aware children with ASD who may be strive but fail to form friendships. Further, distress often increases as children approach adolescence and the social milieu becomes more complex. “Children with autism spend many years learning about facial expressivity, but our research shows that by the age of 11 their slower development in this area is already marking them out amongst their typically-developing peers,” said Steven Stagg of Anglia Ruskin University in England who led the study. “It is therefore important that schools work with typically-developing children to educate them about autism, in order to break through the negative impressions that can be formed through a moment’s contact.”
Does facial expressivity count? How typically developing children respond initially to children with Autism. Steven D Stagg, Rachel Slavny, Charlotte Hand, Alice Cardoso and Pamela Smith. Autismpublished online 11 October 2013 DOI: 10.1177/1362361313492392