Difficulties in socio-emotional functioning are proposed to contribute to the development and maintenance of anorexia nervosa (AN). This study aimed to examine emotion recognition abilities in individuals in the acute and recovered stages of AN compared to healthy controls (HCs). A second aim was to examine whether attention to faces and comorbid psychopathology predicted emotion recognition abilities. The films expressions task was administered to 148 participants (46 AN, 51 recovered AN, 51 HC) to assess emotion recognition, during which attention to faces was recorded using eye-tracking. Comorbid psychopathology was assessed using self-report questionnaires and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2nd edition (ADOS-2). No significant differences in emotion recognition abilities or attention to faces were found between groups. However, individuals with a lifetime history of AN who scored above the clinical cut-off on the ADOS-2 displayed poorer emotion recognition performance than those scoring below cut-off and HCs. ADOS-2 scores significantly predicted emotion recognition abilities while controlling for group membership and intelligence. Difficulties in emotion recognition appear to be associated with high autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits, rather than a feature of AN. Whether individuals with AN and high ASD traits may require different treatment strategies or adaptations is a question for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1057
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Asd
  • Attention
  • Comorbidity
  • Emotion recognition


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