Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 583-592

First online:

Understanding Embarrassment Among Those with Autism: Breaking Down the Complex Emotion of Embarrassment Among Those with Autism

  • Ashleigh HillierAffiliated withUniversity of Lincoln and Humberside Email author 
  • , Lesley AllinsonAffiliated withUniversity of Lincoln and Humberside

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Scenarios manipulating various factors within the emotion of embarrassment, such as whether or not an audience was present when an embarrassing act was committed, the type of audience present, empathic embarrassment, etc., were presented to high-functioning participants with autism and comparison groups of those with learning difficulties and typically developing participants matched for verbal and nonverbal mental age. Participants were required to rate the level of embarrassment of the protagonist and justify their responses. It was predicted that those with autism would differ significantly from the comparison groups in their ratings and also their ability to provide justifications. The results showed those with autism to have difficulty with such concepts as empathic embarrassment but showed a surprisingly good understanding of other variables manipulated such as the presence of an audience.

Autism embarrassment empathy theory of mind