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Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Double Empathy Problem

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the daily struggles of autistic people, including stereotypes and myths.

 Cheang, R. T., Skjevling, M., Blakemore, A. I., Kumari, V., & Puzzo, I. (2024). Do you feel me? Autism, empathic accuracy and the double empathy problem. Autism, 0(0). Lay abstract:

The assumption that autistic people lack empathy, particularly imagining how others feel, has been much debated and is now being challenged by an alternative view: the ‘double empathy problem’. This suggests that non-autistic people may find it equally difficult to imagine how autistic people feel. Although this perspective is gaining popularity, research testing whether non-autistic people can accurately imagine and feel an autistic person’s emotions is still limited. Our study used video clips of autistic and non-autistic people recounting emotional events to test if participants from the general population could: track the intensity of the narrators’ emotions; name and feel the same emotion; match where the narrator felt the emotion and indicate how intensely they felt the emotion using a body map. Our results show that participants found it significantly harder to track autistic narrators’ emotions compared to non-autistic narrator’s emotions, especially when viewing clips of narrators feeling happy and sad. We also found that participants felt emotions more intensely in the body when viewing clips of autistic narrators compared to non-autistic narrators, especially when describing anger and fear. These findings support the double empathy problem and have strong implications for therapeutic and interpersonal relationships with autistic people.