Abstract

Tavano, A., Pesarin, A., Drioli, C., Perina, A., Murino, V., & Cristani, M. (2014). Automatic Conversational Scene Analysis in children with Asperger syndrome/High-Functioning Autism and typically developing peers. PlosOne, 9, e85819.

Automatic Conversational Scene Analysis in children with Asperger syndrome/High-Functioning Autism and typically developing peers

Individuals with Asperger syndrome/High Functioning Autism fail to spontaneously attribute mental states to the self and others, a life-long phenotypic characteristic known as mindblindness. We hypothesized that mindblindness would affect the dynamics of conversational interaction. Using generative models, in particular Gaussian mixture models and observed influence models, conversations were coded as interacting Markov processes, operating on novel speech/silence patterns, termed Steady Conversational Periods (SCPs). SCPs assume that whenever an agent's process changes state (e.g., from silence to speech), it causes a general transition of the entire conversational process, forcing inter-actant synchronization. SCPs fed into observed influence models, which captured the conversational dynamics of children and adolescents with Asperger syndrome/High Functioning Autism, and age-matched typically developing participants. Analyzing the parameters of the models by means of discriminative classifiers, the dialogs of patients were successfully distinguished from those of control participants. We conclude that meaning-free speech/silence sequences, reflecting inter-actant synchronization, at least partially encode typical and atypical conversational dynamics. This suggests a direct influence of theory of mind abilities onto basic speech initiative behavior.



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