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New impulse for autism research in collaboration with China

Psychologists of Leiden University and Peking University will collaborate to investigate the deficiencies in emotion recognition in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The new collaboration fits very well in the policy of Leiden University in which intensified collaboration with China has priority.

Carolein Rieffe
Carolien Rieffe

The China Exchange Program, sponsored by by the Dutch ministry of OCW (Education, Culture and Science), aims to stimulate scientific cooperation between the Netherlands and China. In this large-scaled programme the KNAW NWO China Committee has awarded a grant to Professor Carolien Rieffe (Developmental Psychology at Leiden University) and Professor Yi Li (Developmental and Pedagogical Psychology at Peking University) to conduct a two-year long joint research project. In this project, Rieffe and her two post-doc researchers, Boya Li and Marieke Bos will collaborate with the research team of Yi. The two parties are excited about this novel cooperation, and hope that this project will serve as a good start and lead to a long-term research cooperation. 

Emotion Recognition in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Understanding how your conversation partner feels is crucial for a smoothing communication. However, children with ASD have difficulties in reading social clues, and thus socialisation and communicating can be challenging for them. What are the causes of this impaired emotion understanding in children with ASD? This is the central question that will be investigated in this joined research project.

Broaden and deepen our knowledge 

Both being experts in studying children with ASD, the Dutch researcher Rieffe has year-long experience with using observational tasks and parent reports to examine emotional functionality in children with ASD, whereas the Chinese researcher Yi has focused on facial recognition in children with ASD, and is experienced with using the new eye tracking technology. With this new kind of sensor technology, it is possible to study how individuals with ASD “read” others’ faces. The collaboration will combine the expertise of the two parties, promote cooperative knowledge sharing, and eventually broaden and deepen our knowledge in the field of ASD research.

Do cross-cultural differences exist in emotion recognition?

It should be mentioned that although autism is a worldwide recognized developmental disorder, most well-known research has been conducted in western societies. Rieffe and Yi hope that through their joint project they will draw more attention to the clinical population in China. It will also be interesting to examine possible cross-cultural differences in emotion recognition in children with ASD.

Longstanding collaboration Leiden University and China

Leiden University has long had a special interest in, and relationship with China. It was the first university in the Netherlands to establish a Chair in Chinese Language in 1877, Currently, is the only Dutch university that developed a department of Chinese Studies (Sinology).  In the 3-year bachelor course, and the 2-year master course, students not only learn Mandarin, and gain knowledge about the culture, traditions and history of China, but students also gain a deeper understanding of the dynamic position of China regionally (Asia) and in a broader international context. All monthly activities, such as lectures, guest speakers, international visitors are listend at the   China blog.

Besides its international reputation in Chinese Studies, Leiden University, known as the oldest university in the Netherlands and as a highly ranked university worldwide, has attracted an increasing number of Chinese students who seek high-quality education in different disciplines, as well as Chinese researchers who seek international partners for cooperation in state-of-the-art research.

Currently, this mutual interest with China can be found at all faculties at Leiden University. As a part of the Institutional Plan 2015-2020 “Freedom to Excel”, Leiden University aims to focus on areas in which Leiden University and Chinese partners excel and can mutually strengthen and enrich each other, to further develop innovative and high qualitative research and education.