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J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2013;35(6):655-68. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2013.809700. Epub 2013 Jun 25.

Understanding advanced theory of mind and empathy in high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder.

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School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.


It has been argued that higher functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have specific deficits in advanced but not simple theory of mind (ToM), yet the questionable ecological validity of some tasks reduces the strength of this assumption. The present study employed The Awareness of Social Inference Test (TASIT), which uses video vignettes to assess comprehension of subtle conversational inferences (sarcasm, lies/deception). Given the proposed relationships between advanced ToM and cognitive and affective empathy, these associations were also investigated. As expected, the high-functioning adults with ASDs demonstrated specific deficits in comprehending the beliefs, intentions, and meaning of nonliteral expressions. They also had significantly lower cognitive and affective empathy. Cognitive empathy was related to ToM and group membership whereas affective empathy was only related to group membership.

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