Facial Emotion Recognition and Eye Movement Behaviour in Conduct Disorder

N.A. Martin-Key, E.W. Graf, W.J. Adams, Graeme Fairchild

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Conduct Disorder (CD) is associated with impairments in facial emotion recognition. However, it is unclear whether such deficits are explained by a failure to attend to emotionally informative face regions, such as the eyes, or by problems in the appraisal of emotional cues.

Method: Male and female adolescents with CD and varying levels of callous-unemotional (CU) traits and age- and sex-matched typically-developing (TD) controls (aged 13-18) categorised the emotion of dynamic and morphed static faces. Concurrent eye tracking was used to relate categorisation performance to participants’ allocation of overt attention.

Results: Adolescents with CD were worse at emotion recognition than TD controls, with deficits observed across static and dynamic expressions. In addition, the CD group fixated less on the eyes when viewing fearful and sad expressions. Across all participants, higher levels of CU traits were associated with fear recognition deficits and reduced attention to the eyes of surprised faces. Within the CD group, however, higher CU traits were associated with better fear recognition. Overall, males were worse at recognising emotions than females and displayed a reduced tendency to fixate the eyes.

Discussion: Adolescents with CD, and particularly males, showed deficits in emotion recognition and fixated less on the eyes when viewing emotional faces. Individual differences in fixation behaviour predicted modest variations in emotion categorisation. However, group differences in fixation were small and did not explain the much larger group differences in categorisation performance, suggesting that CD-related deficits in emotion recognition were not mediated by abnormal fixation patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-257
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date7 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018


  • Conduct disorder
  • callous-unemotional traits
  • emotion recognition
  • eye tracking
  • sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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