Advancing Advanced Mind-reading Tests: Empathic Accuracy in Adults with a Pervasive Developmental Disorder
H. Roeyers, A. Buysse, K. Ponnet and B. Pichal, Journal of Child Psychology, Volume 42, No 2, pp 27- 278, 2001.
Research using advanced but static mind-reading tests with high-functioning adults with a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) provided evidence for subtle social cognitive deficits. In the present study, adults with PDD were unimpaired on such tasks, relative to individually matched normal controls. Significant differences between the two groups were, however, found on a more naturalistic empathic accuracy task developed for this study. Participants viewed two videotaped interactions that both depicted a male and female stranger having an initial conversation and were asked to infer the unexpressed thoughts and feelings of the four targets. Subjects with PDD performed significantly worse on the second video. These findings suggest that the mind-reading deficit of a sub-group of able adults with PDD may only be apparent when a sufficiently complex naturalistic assessment method is being used.
The Friendship Questionnaire: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism, and Normal Sex Differences
S. Baron Cohen and S. Wheelwright, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Volume 33, No 5, October 2003, 509 - 517.
Friendship is an important part of normal social functioning, yet there are precious few instruments for measuring the individual differences in this domain. In this article, we report a new self-report questionnaire, the Friendship Questionnaire (FQ), for use with adults of normal intelligence. A high score on the FQ is achieved by the respondent reporting that they enjoy close, empathetic, supportive, caring friendships that are important to them; that they like and are interested in people; and that they enjoy interacting with others for its own sake. The FQ has a maximum score of 135 and a minimum of zero. In study 1, we carried out a study of n = 76 (27 males and 49 females) adults from a general population, to test for previously reported sex differences in friendships. This confirmed that women scored significantly higher than men. In study 2, we employed the FQ with n + 68 adults (51 males, 17 females) with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism to test the theory that autism is an extreme form of the male brain. The adults with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism scored significantly lower on the FQ than both male and female controls from study 1. The FQ thus reveals both a sex difference in the style of friendship in the general population, and provides support for the extreme male brain theory of autism.
The FQ was designed to be short, easy to use, and easy to score. It is shown in the Appendix. The FQ comprises 35 questions, on 27 of which it is possible to score. The maximum score for each item on the FQ is 5 points, with fewer points also available for some items. In the general population, women scored significantly higher than men (study 1), the results replicating the findings from previous observational studies concerning the differences in friendships experienced by men and women.
Reading the Mind in the Voice: A study with Normal Adults & Adults with Aspergers Syndrome and High Functioning Autism
Rutherford, M.D, Baron-Cohen, S., and Wheelwright, S., (2002), Journal of Autism and Development Disorders, Vol 32, Pages 189-206.
People with high functioning autism (HFA) and Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) have deficits in theory of mind (ToM). Traditional ToM tasks are not sensitive enough to measure ToM deficits in adults, so more subtle ToM tests are needed. One adult level test, the Reading the Mind in the eyes test has shown that AS and HFA subjects have measurable deficits in the ability to make ToM interferences. Here we introduce a test that extends the above task into the auditory domain and that can be used with adults with IQ scores in the normal range. We report the use of the test with an adult sample of people with AS/HFA and with two adult control groups. Results suggest that individuals with AS/HFA have difficulty extracting mental state information from vocalisations. These results are consistent with previous results suggesting that people with HFA and AS have difficulties drawing ToM interferences.
The audio stimuli were composed of segments of dialogue taken from audiocassette tapes of dramatic performances. Each speech segment was either a sentence or a phrase. Each speech segment lasted for approximately 2 seconds with a 3 second pause between speech segments, during which participants marked their choice.
Construction of the Task
First, 50 segments of dialogue were recorded from dramatic audio books. Ten items were excluded, leaving 40 segments of speech.
Linguistic Processing in High-Functioning Adults with Autism or A.S. Is Global Coherence Impaired?
Therese Jolliffe’ and Simon Baron-Cohen Psychological Medicine, 2000, Vol 30, pp 1169-1187
Linguistic processing was explored in normally intelligent adults with either autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, to test if global coherence was impaired. Global Coherence is the ability to establish causal connections and interrelate local chunks into higher-order chunks so that most linguistic elements are linked together thematically. Since individuals with autism are hypothesized to have weak central coherence then one would predict that the clinical groups would have difficulty integrating information globally so as to derive full meaning.
Two experiments were designed to test global coherence. Experiment 1 investigated whether individuals on the autism spectrum condition could arrange sentences coherently. Experiment 2 investigated whether they were less able to use context to make a global inference. The clinical groups were less able to arrange sentences coherently and use context to make a global inference.
The results suggest that individuals on the autism spectrum have impaired global coherence. Arranging sentences and making global inferences correlated highly, suggesting that central coherence may be a unitary force in these different tasks. Of the two clinical groups, the autism group had the greater deficit. The effect that such a deficit would have on one’s daily life is discussed along with possible explanations for the clinical groups’ difficulty and suggestions for future research.
Temperament and character in adults with Asperger’s Syndrome
Soderstrom, H and Gillberg, C. (2002), Autism, Vol 6(3) 287-297
To study the personality characteristics of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome, and investigate the value of self-rating personality inventories, we administered the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) to 31 outpatients with Asperger’s Syndrome. The TCI is a self-rating personality inventory that has been validated in the Swedish general population. Participants with Asperger’s Syndrome scored significantly higher on harm avoidance and lower on self-discreteness and cooperativeness. Reward dependence and novelty seeking tended to be low. They also had significantly higher rarity scores, reflecting idiosyncratic perspectives. The most common temperament configurations were obsessional, passive-dependant and explosive. Character, reflecting conceptual maturity, was poorly developed in the majority of subjects. The self-ratings of persons with Asperger’s Syndrome thus indicated anxious personalities with coping difficulties in the areas of social interaction and self-directness, a picture corresponding to the clinical descriptions of Asperger’s Syndrome.
Self-ratings on the Temperament and Character Inventory indicated that the participants with Asperger’s Syndrome in the present study clearly differed from the normative population. The vast majority (27/31) obtained scores consistent with an immature character, i.e. a poor sense of integrity, control and direction in relation to themselves and to others, which points to increased risk of having a personality disorder. Particularly frequent in our study population was the obsessional type personality disorder, followed by the passive-dependant, explosive and passive aggression types.
One particularly important finding, however, was that the large variation in scores for each dimension demonstrated a wide range of personality types among participants with Asperger’s Syndrome. Thus, it may be concluded that although individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome have an increased risk of personality problems or disorders, and that certain types are more common (obsessional, passive and explosive types) than others, the neuropsychiatric dysfunctions associated with the disorder permit a considerable variation in personality.