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

  • Ilaria Minio-PaluelloEmail author
  • Michael V. Lombardo
  • Bhismadev Chakrabarti
  • Sally Wheelwright
  • Simon Baron-Cohen
Letter to the Editor

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 reduced. However, a basic type of empathic response that would fall into Smith’s definition of EE may indeed be heightened (a self-oriented personal distress response to others’ distress). We end by suggesting additional avenues to be explored.

Empathy is a process where another person’s mental state (which include intentions, desires, emotions and proprioceptive states) automatically activates in the observer a representation of the observed state. These representations, unless inhibited, prime...


Emotion Regulation Autistic Trait Autism Spectrum Condition Alexithymia Empathic Concern 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilaria Minio-Paluello
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael V. Lombardo
    • 2
  • Bhismadev Chakrabarti
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sally Wheelwright
    • 2
  • Simon Baron-Cohen
    • 2
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Psicologia La SapienzaUniversita’ di RomaRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Autism Research CentreCambridge UniversityCambridgeUK
  3. 3.School of Psychology and Clinical Language SciencesUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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