Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Cheryl Dickter and Joshua Burk

Committee Members

Pamela Hunt

Cemile Kumas


The current study examined the influence of emojis, emoticons and human faces on social attention for individuals with various levels of autistic traits and social anxiety. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and social anxiety (SA) are often comorbid, but they have been shown to involve different social attentional patterns. These social attentional differences have been observed with the use of human stimuli, however with an increasing prevalence of online interaction, the role of emojis and emotions on social attention for those with ASD and SA must be examined. In the current study, 91 typically developing college students completed a flanker task assessing control of attention to a human target amongst human, emoji or emoticon distractors. Participants with more self-reported autistic traits were slower to correctly identify the emotion of a target human face depicting the emotion fear when the flanker face was an emoji depicting surprise. Additionally, individuals with higher levels of social anxiety were found to show greater fixations towards flanker faces when flankers were fear human faces. This study suggests that social attention for individuals with higher levels of autistic traits differs depending on the type of stimuli. This study also indicates that fixation towards negative emotions for those with social anxiety may be specific for human stimuli.

On-Campus Access Only