High-functioning children in the autism spectrum are frequently noted for their impaired attention to facial expressions of emotions. In this study, we examined whether attention to emotion cues in others could be enhanced in children with autism, by varying the relevance of children's attention to emotion expressions. Twenty-eight high-functioning boys with autism and 31 boys from a control group were asked to sort photos depicting smiling or frowning faces of adults. As found in earlier studies, in neutral conditions children with autism were less attentive to emotion expressions than children from a control group. This difference disappeared when children were explicitly asked to make a socially relevant decision. These findings suggest that the attention of children with autism to emotion expressions in others is influenced by situational factors. Theoretical implications of these findings are discussed. © 2006 SAGE Publications and The National Autistic Society.