Vitality form expression in autism

L Casartelli, A Cesareo, E Biffi, G C Campione, L Villa, M Molteni, C Sinigaglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The notion of "vitality form" has been coined by Daniel Stern to describe the basic features of action, which may reflect the mood or affective state of an agent. There is general consensus that vitality forms substantiate social interactions in children as well in adults. Previous studies have explored children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)'s ability in copying and recognizing the vitality forms of actions performed by others. In this paper we investigated, for the first time, how children with ASD express different vitality forms when acting themselves. We recorded the kinematics of ASD and typically developing (TD) children while performing three different types of action with two different vitality forms. There were two conditions. In the what condition we contrasted the three different types of action performed with a same vitality form, while in the how condition we contrasted the same type of action performed with two different vitality forms. The results showed a clear difference between ASD children and TD children in the how, but not in the what, condition. Indeed, while TD children distinguished the vitality forms to be expressed by mostly varying a specific spatiotemporal parameter (i.e. movement time), no significant variation in this parameter was found in ASD children. As they are not prone to express vitality forms as neurotypical individuals do, individuals with ASD's interactions with neurotypical peers could therefore be difficult to achieve successfully, with cascading effects on their propensity to be tuned to their surrounding social world, or so we conjecture. If this conjecture would turn out to be correct, our findings could have promising implication for theoretical and clinical research in the context of ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17182
Number of pages13
JournalSci. Rep.
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 14 2020


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