Empathy and emotion recognition in people with autism, first-degree relatives, and controls.
ABSTRACT: Empathy is the lens through which we view others' emotion expressions, and respond to them. In this study, empathy and facial emotion recognition were investigated in adults with autism spectrum conditions (ASC; N=314), parents of a child with ASC (N=297) and IQ-matched controls (N=184). Participants completed a self-report measure of empathy (the Empathy Quotient [EQ]) and a modified version of the Karolinska Directed Emotional Faces Task (KDEF) using an online test interface. Results showed that mean scores on the EQ were significantly lower in fathers (p<0.05) but not mothers (p>0.05) of children with ASC compared to controls, whilst both males and females with ASC obtained significantly lower EQ scores (p<0.001) than controls. On the KDEF, statistical analyses revealed poorer overall performance by adults with ASC (p<0.001) compared to the control group. When the 6 distinct basic emotions were analysed separately, the ASC group showed impaired performance across five out of six expressions (happy, sad, angry, afraid and disgusted). Parents of a child with ASC were not significantly worse than controls at recognising any of the basic emotions, after controlling for age and non-verbal IQ (all p>0.05). Finally, results indicated significant differences between males and females with ASC for emotion recognition performance (p<0.05) but not for self-reported empathy (p>0.05). These findings suggest that self-reported empathy deficits in fathers of autistic probands are part of the 'broader autism phenotype'. This study also reports new findings of sex differences amongst people with ASC in emotion recognition, as well as replicating previous work demonstrating empathy difficulties in adults with ASC. The use of empathy measures as quantitative endophenotypes for ASC is discussed.
Project description:Both people with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are significantly challenged in terms of understanding and responding to emotions and in interpersonal functioning.To compare ASC, BPD, and comorbid patients in terms of autistic traits, empathy, and systemizing.624 ASC, 23 BPD, and 16 comorbid (ASC+BPD) patients, and 2,081 neurotypical controls (NC) filled in the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), the Empathy Quotient (EQ) and the Systemizing Quotient-Revised (SQ-R).On the AQ, the comorbid group scored higher than the ASC group, who in turn scored higher than the BPD group, who scored higher than controls. On the EQ, we found the comorbid and ASC groups scored lower than the BPD group, who were not different from controls. Finally, on the SQ-R, we found the ASC and BPD group both scored higher than controls.Similar to ASC, BPD patients have elevated autistic traits and a strong drive to systemize, suggesting an overlap between BPD and ASC.
Project description:Background: The ability to differentiate emotions in social contexts is important for dealing with challenging social situations. Suicide attempters show some difficulties in emotion recognition that may result in hypersensitivity to social stress. However, other studies on the recognition of social complex emotions found that suicide attempters have similar performances as depressed non-attempters. Objectives: To investigate differences in social emotion recognition in patients with current Major Depressive Episode (MDE) with and without history of suicide attempt. Methods: Two hundred and ten patients with MDE were recruited among whom 115 had lifetime history of suicide attempt (suicide attempters, SA) and 95 did not (affective controls, AC). Recognition of complex social emotions was assessed using the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET). Emotions were separated in three valence categories: positive, negative, and neutral. Verbal intelligence quotient (IQ) and attention were measured with the National Adult Reading Task (NART) and the d2 test, respectively. Results: Mixed logistic regression models adjusted for sex, lifetime bipolar disorder, verbal IQ and attention showed that the RMET performance for neutral emotions was worse in the SA than AC group (OR = 0.87 [0.75, 0.99]). Furthermore, when violent/serious SA were compared to non-violent/non-serious SA and AC, the RMET neutral valence category showed a trend for group factor (p < 0.059) and RMET scores were lower in the violent/serious SA than AC group (OR = 0.79 [0.64, 0.96]). Conclusion: Recognition of neutral emotions is poor in SA and this may complicate their daily life. Interventions to improve the understanding of complex emotions may be helpful to prevent suicidal risk in patients with depression.
Project description:Mindfulness involves an intentional and non-judgemental attention or awareness of present-moment experiences. It can be cultivated by meditation practice or present as an inherent disposition or trait. Higher trait mindfulness has been associated with improved emotional skills, but evidence comes primarily from studies on emotion regulation. It remains unclear whether improvements extend to other aspects of emotional processing, namely the ability to recognize emotions in others. In the current study, 107 participants (M age = 25.48 years) completed a measure of trait mindfulness, the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, and two emotion recognition tasks. These tasks required participants to categorize emotions in facial expressions and in speech prosody (modulations of the tone of voice). They also completed an empathy questionnaire and attention tasks. We found that higher trait mindfulness was associated positively with cognitive empathy, but not with the ability to recognize emotions. In fact, Bayesian analyses provided substantial evidence for the null hypothesis, both for emotion recognition in faces and in speech. Moreover, no associations were observed between mindfulness and attention performance. These findings suggest that the positive effects of trait mindfulness on emotional processing do not extend to emotion recognition abilities.
Project description:Pregnancy and puerperium are typified by marked biobehavioral changes. These changes, which are traceable in both mothers and fathers, play an important role in parenthood and may modulate social cognition abilities. However, the latter effects remain notably unexplored in parents of newborns (PNs). To bridge this gap, we assessed empathy and social emotions (envy and Schadenfreude) in 55 PNs and 60 controls (childless healthy participants without a romantic relationship or sexual intercourse in the previous 48?hours). We used facial electromyography to detect physiological signatures of social emotion processing. Results revealed higher levels of affective empathy and Schadenfreude in PNs, the latter pattern being accompanied by increased activity of the corrugator suppercilii region. These effects were not explained by potential confounding variables (educational level, executive functioning, depression, stress levels, hours of sleep). Our novel findings suggest that PNs might show social cognition changes crucial for parental bonding and newborn care.
Project description:Empathy refers to the thoughts and feelings of one individual in response to the observed (emotional) experiences of another individual. Empathy, however, can occur toward persons experiencing a variety of emotions, raising the question of whether or not empathy can be emotion specific. This paper discusses theoretical and empirical support for the emotion specificity of empathy. We present a new measure, the Emotion Specific Empathy questionnaire, which assesses affective and cognitive empathy for the six basic emotions. This paper presents the measure's psychometric qualities and demonstrates, through a series of models, the discriminant validity between emotion specific empathies suggesting empathy is emotion specific. Results and implications are discussed.
Project description:<h4>Objective</h4>The purpose of this study was to examine the level of empathy in deaf and hard of hearing (pre)adolescents compared to normal hearing controls and to define the influence of language and various hearing loss characteristics on the development of empathy.<h4>Methods</h4>The study group (mean age 11.9 years) consisted of 122 deaf and hard of hearing children (52 children with cochlear implants and 70 children with conventional hearing aids) and 162 normal hearing children. The two groups were compared using self-reports, a parent-report and observation tasks to rate the children's level of empathy, their attendance to others' emotions, emotion recognition, and supportive behavior.<h4>Results</h4>Deaf and hard of hearing children reported lower levels of cognitive empathy and prosocial motivation than normal hearing children, regardless of their type of hearing device. The level of emotion recognition was equal in both groups. During observations, deaf and hard of hearing children showed more attention to the emotion evoking events but less supportive behavior compared to their normal hearing peers. Deaf and hard of hearing children attending mainstream education or using oral language show higher levels of cognitive empathy and prosocial motivation than deaf and hard of hearing children who use sign (supported) language or attend special education. However, they are still outperformed by normal hearing children.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Deaf and hard of hearing children, especially those in special education, show lower levels of empathy than normal hearing children, which can have consequences for initiating and maintaining relationships.
Project description:Adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders are reported to show deficits in empathy and emotion recognition. However, prior studies have mainly used questionnaires to measure empathy or experimental paradigms that are lacking in ecological validity. We used an empathic accuracy (EA) task to study EA, emotion recognition, and affective empathy in 77 male adolescents aged 13-18 years: 37 with Conduct Disorder (CD) and 40 typically-developing controls. The CD sample was divided into higher callous-emotional traits (CD/CU+) and lower callous-unemotional traits (CD/CU-) subgroups using a median split. Participants watched films of actors recalling happy, sad, surprised, angry, disgusted or fearful autobiographical experiences and provided continuous ratings of emotional intensity (assessing EA), as well as naming the emotion (recognition) and reporting the emotion they experienced themselves (affective empathy). The CD and typically-developing groups did not significantly differ in EA and there were also no differences between the CD/CU+ and CD/CU- subgroups. Participants with CD were significantly less accurate than controls in recognizing sadness, fear, and disgust, all ps < 0.050, rs ? 0.30, whilst the CD/CU- and CD/CU+ subgroups did not differ in emotion recognition. Participants with CD also showed affective empathy deficits for sadness, fear, and disgust relative to controls, all ps < 0.010, rs ? 0.33, whereas the CD/CU+ and CD/CU- subgroups did not differ in affective empathy. These results extend prior research by demonstrating affective empathy and emotion recognition deficits in adolescents with CD using a more ecologically-valid task, and challenge the view that affective empathy deficits are specific to CD/CU+.
Project description:Individual differences in empathy can have positive and negative psychological outcomes. Yet, individual differences in the processing and regulation of empathy-induced emotion have not been fully explored within this dynamic. This study was designed to explore whether individual differences in emotion regulation strategies moderated the effects of empathy on common forms of affective distress. Eight hundred and forty four participants completed survey measures of trait empathy, emotion regulation strategies, and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Affective empathy typically predicted greater affective distress, but the effects on depression and anxiety were offset when people were effective at reappraising their emotions. Cognitive empathy predicted lower distress on average, but this beneficial effect on anxiety and stress was absent in those who typically suppressed their emotions. Finally, suppression unexpectedly reduced the depression and stress reported for people high in affective empathy. Individual differences in emotion regulation are an important moderator between empathy and psychological health, and thus a useful target for intervention.
Project description:Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) experience marked difficulties in recognising the emotions of others and responding appropriately. The clinical characteristics of ASC mean that face to face or group interventions may not be appropriate for this clinical group. This article explores the potential of a new interactive technology, converting text to emotionally expressive speech, to improve emotion processing ability and attention to faces in adults with ASC. We demonstrate a method for generating a near-videorealistic avatar (XpressiveTalk), which can produce a video of a face uttering inputted text, in a large variety of emotional tones. We then demonstrate that general population adults can correctly recognize the emotions portrayed by XpressiveTalk. Adults with ASC are significantly less accurate than controls, but still above chance levels for inferring emotions from XpressiveTalk. Both groups are significantly more accurate when inferring sad emotions from XpressiveTalk compared to the original actress, and rate these expressions as significantly more preferred and realistic. The potential applications for XpressiveTalk as an assistive technology for adults with ASC is discussed.
Project description:The emotions people feel can be simulated internally based on emotional situational contexts. In the present study, we assessed the behavioral and neuroelectric effects of seeing an unexpected emotional facial expression. We investigated the correct answer rate, response times and Event-Related Potential (ERP) effects during an incongruence paradigm between emotional faces and sentential contexts allowing emotional inferences. Most of the 36 healthy participants were recruited from a larger population (1 463 subjects), based on their scores on the Empathy Questionnaire (EQ). Regression analyses were conducted on these ratings using EQ factors as predictors (cognitive empathy, emotional reactivity and social skills). Recognition of pragmatic emotional incongruence was less accurate (P < .05) and slower (P < .05) than recognition of congruence. The incongruence effect on response times was inversely predicted by social skills. A significant N400 incongruence effect was found at the centro-parietal (P < .001) and centro-posterior midline (P < .01) electrodes. Cognitive empathy predicted the incongruence effect in the left occipital region, in the N400 time window. Finally, incongruence effects were also found on the LPP wave, in frontal midline and dorso-frontal regions, (P < .05), with no modulation by empathy. Processing pragmatic emotional incongruence is more cognitively demanding than congruence (as reflected by both behavioral and ERP data). This processing shows modulation by personality factors at the behavioral (through self-reported social skills) and neuroelectric levels (through self-reported cognitive empathy).