Response to Smith’s Letter to the Editor ‘Emotional Empathy in Autism Spectrum Conditions: Weak, Intact, or Heightened?’

  title={Response to Smith’s Letter to the Editor ‘Emotional Empathy in Autism Spectrum Conditions: Weak, Intact, or Heightened?’},
  author={Ilaria Minio-Paluello and Michael V. Lombardo and Bhismadev Chakrabarti and Sally J. Wheelwright and Simon Baron-Cohen},
  journal={Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders},
Dear Editor, We read with interest the Letter by Smith (2009) suggesting that individuals with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) have heightened emotional empathy (EE). We are pleased to be invited to contribute to the discussion. We do this by commenting on both the evidence cited by Smith, and also the evidence he does not cite. We conceptually reframe the question being posed and argue that, in the light of a broader review of the evidence, empathic responses in people with ASC are in general… 

The Interplay between Emotion and Cognition in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Implications for Developmental Theory

It is suggested that ASD is the developmental consequence of early emerging anomalies in how emotional responses to the environment modulate a wide range of cognitive processes including those that are relevant to navigating the social world.

The role of the self in mindblindness in autism


The study reveals that children with high functioning autism (HFA) have lower empathic skills, whereas children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) do not differ from typically developed (TD) children in terms of empathic skill levels.

Self-referential and social cognition in a case of autism and agenesis of the corpus callosum

It is concluded that AgCC co-occurring with a diagnosis of ASC may be a relevant model at the level of neuroanatomy for understanding mechanisms involved in self-referential and high-level social-cognitive difficulties in ASC.

Face individual identity recognition: a potential endophenotype in autism

Impaired face individual identity recognition meets the criteria to be a potential endophenotype in autism and could be used to stratify autistic individuals into genetically meaningful subgroups and be translatable to autism animal models.

Empathising and systematising in children with and without autism spectrum disorder

It is known that children with autism are insufficient in building empathy. A part of the difficulties in social interaction may originate from the lack of empathy. This research consists of two

Patterns of Contagious Yawning and Itching Differ Amongst Adults With Autistic Traits vs. Psychopathic Traits

It is suggested that diminished contagion may appear amongst people with high levels of autistic traits secondary to diminished attention to the faces of others, and in the absence of a background deficit in emotional empathy.

Increasing Empathy, Decreasing Prejudice: The Role Of Empathy In Challenging Prejudice Among Students

Is empathy a remedy for prejudice? This short paper argues it has a large role to play. It explores the authors’ observations as a Humanities teacher engaging Grade 8 Australian students between the

Emotional Empathy in Autism Spectrum Conditions: Weak, Intact, or Heightened?

  • Adam Smith
  • Psychology
    Journal of autism and developmental disorders
  • 2009
There are now four empirical studies showing that people with autism spectrum conditions may have stronger EE/motor empathy than people with typical development and two theoretical approaches explicitly propose that individuals with autism actually have heightened EE.

Levels of emotional awareness and autism: An fMRI study

Difficulties in emotional awareness are related to hypoactivity in AI in both individuals with high functioning autism/Asperger syndrome and controls, and that the particular difficulties in emotionalawareness in individuals with HFA/AS are not related to their impairments in self-reflection/mentalizing.

Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases.

The Perception-Action Model (PAM), together with an understanding of how representations change with experience, can explain the major empirical effects in the literature and can also predict a variety of empathy disorders.

Dissociation of Cognitive and Emotional Empathy in Adults with Asperger Syndrome Using the Multifaceted Empathy Test (MET)

A new, photo-based measure, the Multifaceted Empathy Test (MET), is used to assess empathy multidimensionally in a group of 17 individuals with Asperger syndrome and 18 well-matched controls, suggesting that while individuals with AS are impaired in cognitive empathy, they do not differ from controls in emotional empathy.

Absence of Embodied Empathy During Pain Observation in Asperger Syndrome

Who Cares? Revisiting Empathy in Asperger Syndrome

The data show that while the AS group scored lower on the measures of cognitive empathy and theory of mind, they were no different from controls on one affective empathy scale of the IRI (empathic concern), and scored higher than controls on the other (personal distress).

Reflecting upon Feelings: An fMRI Study of Neural Systems Supporting the Attribution of Emotion to Self and Other

It is suggested that self and other evaluation of emotion rely on a network of common mechanisms centered on the MPFC, which has been hypothesized to support mental state attributions in general, and that medial and lateral PFC regions selectively recruited by self or other judgments may be involved in attention to, and elaboration of, internally as opposed to externally generated information.

The Empathy Quotient: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, and Normal Sex Differences

The EQ reveals both a sex difference in empathy in the general population and an empathy deficit in Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism adults, who are reported clinically to have difficulties in empathy.

Self-Referential Cognition and Empathy in Autism

It is concluded that individuals with ASC have broad impairments in both self-referential cognition and empathy, which highlight a specific dysfunction in ASC within cortical midlines structures of the brain such as the medial prefrontal cortex.

Body expressions of emotion do not trigger fear contagion in autism spectrum disorder.

It is found that individuals with ASD, in contrast to neurotypical individuals, did not exhibit a differential pattern of brain activation to bodies expressing fear as compared with emotionally neutral bodies, suggesting that emotion perception deficits in ASD may be due to compromised processing of the emotional component of observed actions.