Skip to main content
×
Home

Systemizing empathy: Teaching adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism to recognize complex emotions using interactive multimedia

  • OFER GOLAN (a1) and SIMON BARON-COHEN (a1)
Abstract

This study evaluated Mind Reading, an interactive systematic guide to emotions, for its effectiveness in teaching adults with Asperger syndrome (AS) and high-functioning autism (HFA) to recognize complex emotions in faces and voices. Experiment 1 tested a group of adults diagnosed with AS/HFA (n = 19) who used the software at home for 10–15 weeks. Participants were tested on recognition of faces and voices at three different levels of generalization. A matched control group of adults with AS/HFA (n = 22) were assessed without any intervention. In addition, a third group of general population controls (n = 24) was tested. Experiment 2 repeated the design of Experiment 1 with a group of adults with AS/HFA who used the software at home and met in a group with a tutor on a weekly basis. They were matched to a control group of adults with AS/HFA attending social skills training and to a general population control group (n = 13 for all three groups). In both experiments the intervention group improved significantly more than the control group on close, but not distant, generalization tasks. Verbal IQ had significant effects in Experiment 2. Using Mind Reading for a relatively short period of time allows users to learn to recognize a variety of complex emotions and mental states. However, additional methods are required to enhance generalization.The first author was supported by the National Alliance for Autism Research, the Corob Charitable Trust, the Cambridge Overseas Trust and B'nai B'rith Leo Baeck scholarships. The second author was supported by the Shirley Foundation, the Medical Research Council, and the Three Guineas Trust. We are grateful to the following for helping with this study: our participants, Red Green and Blue Ltd, Jessica Kingsley Ltd, Pamela Yates for arranging and running the social skills groups, Andrea Macleod and Rob Whiskens (Autism West Midlands), Jill Howard (Autism London), Lynne Moxon (European Services for People with Autism), and Harriet Fisher and James Graham (The Interact Centre). Many thanks to Jacqueline Hill, Chris Ashwin, Sally Wheelwright, Matthew Belmonte, Yael Golan, Sarah Johnson, Emma Chapman, and Ilaria Minio Paluello. A version of this work was presented at the International Meeting For Autism Research (IMFAR), May 2004.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Ofer Golan, Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, Department of Psychiatry, Douglas House, 18b Trumpington Road, Cambridge CB2 2AH, UK; E-mail: og211@cam.ac.uk.
References
Hide All

REFERENCES

Adolphs, R. (2001). The neurobiology of social cognition. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 11, 231239.
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Ashwin, C., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., O'Riordan, M., & Bullmore, E. T. (2005). Differential activation of the social brain during emotion processing in adults with autism. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Astington, J. W., Harris, P. L., & Olson, D. R. (1988). Developing theories of mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Baron-Cohen, S. (1995). Mindblindness: An essay on autism and theory of mind. Boston: MIT Press/Bradford Books.
Baron-Cohen, S. (2002). The extreme male brain theory of autism. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6, 248254.
Baron-Cohen, S. (2003). The essential difference: Men, women and the extreme male brain. London: Penguin.
Baron-Cohen, S., Golan, O., Wheelwright, S., & Hill, J. J. (2004). Mind reading: The interactive guide to emotions. London: Jessica Kingsley Limited (www.jkp.com).
Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., & Frith, U. (1986). Mechanical, behavioural and Intentional understanding of picture stories in autistic children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 4, 113125.
Baron-Cohen, S., Richler, J., Bisarya, D., Gurunathan, N., & Wheelwright, S. (2003). The Systemising Quotient (SQ): An investigation of adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism and normal sex differences. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B, 358, 361374.
Baron-Cohen, S., Ring, H. A., Wheelwright, S., Bullmore, E. T., Brammer, M. J., Simmons, A., et al. (1999). Social intelligence in the normal and autistic brain: An fMRI study. European Journal of Neuroscience, 11, 18911898.
Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J. J., Raste, Y., & Plumb, I. (2001). The “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” Test—Revised version: A study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 241251.
Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., & Jolliffe, T. (1997). Is there a “language of the eyes”? Evidence from normal adults, and adults with autism or Asperger syndrome. Visual Cognition, 4, 311331.
Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., & Clubley, E. (2001). The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 517.
Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Spong, A., Scahill, V., & Lawson, J. (2001). Are intuitive physics and intuitive psychology independent? A test with children with Asperger Syndrome. Journal of Developmental and Learning Disorders, 5, 4778.
Barry, T. D., Klinger, L. G., Lee, J. M., Palardy, N., Gilmore, T., & Bodin, S. D. (2003). Examining the effectiveness of an outpatient clinic-based social skills group for high-functioning children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33, 685701.
Belmonte, M. K., Allen, G., Beckel-Mitchener, A., Boulanger, L. M., Carper, R. A., & Webb, S. J. (2004). Autism and abnormal development of brain connectivity. Journal of Neuroscience, 24, 92289231.
Belmonte, M. K., Cook, E. H., Anderson, G. M., Rubenstein, J. L., Greenough, W. T., Beckel-Mitchener, A., et al. (2004). Autism as a disorder of neural information processing: Directions for research and targets for therapy. Molecular Psychiatry, 9, 646663. [Unabridged edition at http://www.cureautismnow.org/media/3915.pdf]
Bernard-Opitz, V., Sriram, N., & Nakhoda-Sapuan, S. (2001). Enhancing social problem solving in children with autism and normal children through computer-assisted instruction. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 377398.
Bishop, J. (2003). The Internet for educating individuals with social impairments. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 19, 546556.
Bolte, S., Feineis-Matthews, S., Leber, S., Dierks, T., Hubl, D., & Poustka, F. (2002). The development and evaluation of a computer-based program to test and to teach the recognition of facial affect. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 61(Suppl. 2), 6168.
Boucher, J., Lewis, V., & Collis, G. M. (2000). Voice processing abilities in children with autism, children with specific language impairments, and young typically developing children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 41, 847857.
Celani, G., Battacchi, M. W., & Arcidiacono, L. (1999). The understanding of the emotional meaning of facial expressions in people with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 29, 5766.
Critchley, H. D., Daly, E. M., Bullmore, E. T., Williams, S. C., Van Amelsvoort, T., Robertson, D. M., et al. (2000). The functional neuroanatomy of social behaviour: Changes in cerebral blood flow when people with autistic disorder process facial expressions. Brain, 123, 22032212.
Deruelle, C., Rondan, C., Gepner, B., & Tardif, C. (2004). Spatial frequency and face processing in children with autism and Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34, 199210.
Ekman, P. (1993). Facial expression and emotion. American Psychologist, 48, 384392.
Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. (1971). Constants across cultures in the face and emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 17, 124129.
Fein, D., Lucci, D., Braverman, M., & Waterhouse, L. (1992). Comprehension of affect in context in children with pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 33, 11571167.
Fernald, A. (1992). Human maternal vocalizations to infants as biologically relevant signals: An evolutionary perspective. In J. H. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 391428). London: Oxford University Press.
Forster, K. L., & Forster, J. C. (2003). DMDX: A windows display program with millisecond accuracy. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers, 35, 116124.
Frith, U. (1989). Autism: Explaining the enigma. Oxford: Blackwell.
Frith, U., & Hill, E. (2004). Autism: Mind and brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Golan, O., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2006). Teaching children with Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism to recognize emotions using interactive multimedia. Unpublished manuscript.
Golan, O., Baron-Cohen, S., & Hill, J. (in press). The Cambridge Mindreading (CAM) Face–Voice Battery: Testing complex emotion recognition in adults with and without Asperger Syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Golan, O., Baron-Cohen, S., Hill, J. J., & Golan, Y. (in press). “Reading the Mind in Films”—Testing recognition of complex emotions and mental states in adults with and without autism spectrum conditions. Social Neuroscience.
Golan, O., Baron-Cohen, S., Hill, J. J., & Rutherford, M. D. (2005). The “Reading the Mind in the Voice Test—Revised”: A study of complex emotion recognition in adults with and without autism spectrum conditions. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Grossman, J. B., Klin, A., Carter, A. S., & Volkmar, F. R. (2000). Verbal bias in recognition of facial emotions in children with Asperger syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 41, 369379.
Hadwin, J., Baron-Cohen, S., Howlin, P., & Hill, K. (1996). Can we teach children with autism to understand emotions, belief, or pretence? Development and Psychopathology, 8, 345365.
Happe, F. (1994). An advanced test of theory of mind: Understanding of story characters' thoughts and feelings by able autistic, mentally handicapped, and normal children and adults. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24, 129154.
Happe, F., Ehlers, S., Fletcher, P., Frith, U., Johansson, M., Gillberg, C., et al. (1996). “Theory of mind” in the brain. Evidence from a PET scan study of Asperger syndrome. Neuroreport, 8, 197201.
Haviland, J. M., & Lelwica, M. (1987). The induced affect response: 10-week-old infants' responses to three emotion expressions. Developmental Psychology, 23, 97104.
Heavey, L., Phillips, W., Baron-Cohen, S., & Rutter, M. (2000). The Awkward Moments Test: A naturalistic measure of social understanding in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 225236.
Hetzroni, O. E., & Tannous, J. (2004). Effects of a computer-based intervention program on the communicative functions of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34, 95113.
Hobson, P. (1994). Understanding persons: The role of affect. In S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager Flusberg, & D. Cohen (Eds.), Understanding other minds (pp. 204227). London: Oxford University Press.
Hobson, R. P. (1986a). The autistic child's appraisal of expressions of emotion. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 27, 321342.
Hobson, R. P. (1986b). The autistic child's appraisal of expressions of emotion: A further study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 27, 671680.
Hobson, R. P., Ouston, J., & Lee, A. (1988). What's in a face? The case of autism. British Journal of Psychology, 79, 441453.
Holm, S. (1979). A simple sequentially rejective multiple test procedure. Scandinavian Journal of Statistics, 6, 6570.
Howlin, P., Baron-Cohen, S., & Hadwin, J. (1999). Teaching children with autism to mind-read: A practical guide for teachers and parents. Chichester: Wiley.
Howlin, P., & Yates, P. (1999). The potential effectiveness of social skills groups for adults with autism. Autism, 3, 299307.
Jolliffe, T., & Baron-Cohen, S. (1997). Are people with autism and Asperger syndrome faster than normal on the Embedded Figures Test? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 38, 527534.
Jolliffe, T., & Baron-Cohen, S. (1999). The Strange Stories Test: A replication with high-functioning adults with autism or Asperger Syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 29, 395406.
Kleinman, J., Marciano, P. L., & Ault, R. L. (2001). Advanced theory of mind in high-functioning adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 2936.
Klin, A., Jones, W., Schultz, R., & Volkmar, F. (2003). The enactive mind, or from actions to cognition: Lessons from autism. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 358, 345360.
Klin, A., Jones, W., Schultz, R., Volkmar, F., & Cohen, D. (2002). Visual fixation patterns during viewing of naturalistic social situations as predictors of social competence in individuals with autism. Archives of General Psychiatry, 59, 809816.
Klinger, L. G., & Dawson, G. (1995). A fresh look at categorization abilities in persons with autism. In E. Schopler & G. Mesibov (Eds.), Learning and cognition in autism (pp. 119136). New York: Plenum Press.
Kurita, H., Koyama, T., & Osada, H. (2005). Autism-spectrum quotient—Japanese version and its short forms for screening normally intelligent persons with pervasive developmental disorders. Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 59, 490496.
Lawson, J. (2003). Depth accessibility difficulties: An Alternative conceptualisation of autism spectrum conditions. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 33, 189202.
Lawson, J., Baron-Cohen, S., & Wheelwright, S. (2004). Empathising and systemising in adults with and without Asperger Syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34, 301310.
Loveland, K. A., Tunali Kotoski, B., Chen, R., & Brelsford, K. A. (1995). Intermodal perception of affect in persons with autism or Down syndrome. Development and Psychopathology, 7, 409418.
Loveland, K. A., Tunali Kotoski, B., Chen, Y. R., Ortegon, J., Pearson, D. A., Brelsford, K. A., et al. (1997). Emotion recognition in autism: Verbal and nonverbal information. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 579593.
Macdonald, H., Rutter, M., Howlin, P., Rios, P., Le Conteur, A., Evered, C., et al. (1989). Recognition and expression of emotional cues by autistic and normal adults. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 30, 865877.
Moore, D., McGrath, P., & Thorpe, J. (2000). Computer-aided learning for people with autism—A framework for research and development. Innovations in Education and Training International, 37, 218228.
Nieminen-von Wendt, T., Metsahonkala, L., Kulomaki, T., Alto, S., Autti, T., Vanhala, R., et al. (2003). Changes in cerebral blood flow in Asperger syndrome during theory of mind tasks presented by the auditory route. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 12, 178189.
O'Riordan, M. A., Plaisted, K. C., Driver, J., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2001). Superior visual search in autism. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27, 719730.
Ozonoff, S. (1995a). Reliability and validity of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test in studies of autism. Neuropsychology, 9, 491500.
Ozonoff, S. (1995b). Executive functions in autism. In E. Schopler & B. Mesibov (Eds.), Learning and cognition in autism (pp. 199219). New York: Plenum Press.
Parsons, S., & Mitchell, P. (2002). The potential of virtual reality in social skills training for people with autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities Research, 46, 430443.
Parsons, S., Mitchell, P., & Leonard, A. (2005). Do adolescents with autistic spectrum disorders adhere to social conventions in virtual environments? Autism, 9, 95117.
Pierce, K., Muller, R. A., Ambrose, J., Allen, G., & Courchesne, E. (2001). Face processing occurs outside the fusiform “face area” in autism: Evidence from functional MRI. Brain, 124, 20592073.
Plaisted, K. C. (2001). Reduced generalization in autism: An alternative to weak central coherence. In J. A. Burack (Ed.), The development of autism: Perspectives from theory and research (pp. 149169). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Rajendran, G., & Mitchell, P. (2000). Computer mediated interaction in Asperger's syndrome: The Bubble Dialogue program. Computers and Education, 35, 189207.
Rimland, B. (1965). Infantile autism: The syndrome and its implications for a neural theory of behavior. London: Methuen.
Russell, J. (1997). Autism as an executive disorder. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rutherford, M. D., Baron-Cohen, S., & Wheelwright, S. (2002). Reading the mind in the voice: A study with normal adults and adults with Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism. Journal Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 189194.
Rydin, O. T., Drake, J., & Bratt, A. (1999). The effects of training on emotion recognition skills for adults with an intellectual disability. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 12, 253262.
Schultz, R. T., Grelotti, D. J., Klin, A., Kleinman, J., Van der Gaag, C., Marois, R., et al. (2003). The role of the fusiform face area in social cognition: Implications for the pathobiology of autism. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London B: Biological Sciences, 358, 415427.
Shah, A., & Frith, U. (1993). Why do autistic individuals show superior performance on the block design task? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 34, 13511364.
Silver, M., & Oakes, P. (2001). Evaluation of a new computer intervention to teach people with autism or Asperger syndrome to recognize and predict emotions in others. Autism, 5, 299316.
Swettenham, J. (1996). Can children with autism be taught to understand false belief using computers? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 37, 157165.
Swettenham, J. (2000). Teaching theory of mind to individuals with autism. In S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg, & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Understanding other minds: Perspectives from developmental cognitive neuroscience (2nd ed., pp. 442456). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Teunisse, J. P., & De Gelder, B. (1994). Do autistics have a generalized face processing deficit? International Journal of Neuroscience, 77, 110.
Wechsler, D. (1999). Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI). San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.
Wellman, H. M. (1992). The child's theory of mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Woodbury-Smith, M. R., Robinson, J., Wheelwright, S., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2005). Screening adults for Asperger syndrome using the AQ: A preliminary study of its diagnostic validity in clinical practice. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35, 331335.
World Health Organisation. (1994). International Classification of Diseases (10th ed.). Geneva: Author.
Yirmiya, N., Sigman, M. D., Kasari, C., & Mundy, P. (1992). Empathy and cognition in high-functioning children with autism. Child Development, 63, 150160.
Young, A. W. (1998). Face and mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Zhang, J., Quan, H., Ng, J., & Stepanavage, M. E. (1997). Some statistical methods for multiple endpoints in clinical trials. Controlled Clinical Trials, 18, 204221.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 38
Total number of PDF views: 374 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1941 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.