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

Abstract

Empathy is a multidimensional construct consisting of cognitive (inferring mental states) and emotional (empathic concern) components. Despite a paucity of research, individuals on the autism spectrum are generally believed to lack empathy. In the current study we used a new, photo-based measure, the Multifaceted Empathy Test (MET), to assess empathy multidimensionally in a group of 17 individuals with Asperger syndrome (AS) and 18 well-matched controls. Results suggested that while individuals with AS are impaired in cognitive empathy, they do not differ from controls in emotional empathy. Level of general emotional arousability and socially desirable answer tendencies did not differ between groups. Internal consistency of the MET’s scales ranged from .71 to .92, and convergent and divergent validity were highly satisfactory.

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Acknowledgments

The study was funded by a grant from the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) to A.C.

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Correspondence to Isabel Dziobek.

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Dziobek, I., Rogers, K., Fleck, S. et al. Dissociation of Cognitive and Emotional Empathy in Adults with Asperger Syndrome Using the Multifaceted Empathy Test (MET). J Autism Dev Disord 38, 464–473 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-007-0486-x

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Keywords

  • Asperger syndrome
  • Autism
  • Empathy
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind
  • Sympathy