Empathy in Those with Autism Spectrum Disorders

In this class we have discussed the limitations of empathy, but we have yet to talk about predispositions to limited empathy. There is a common impression that people with Autism Spectrum Disorders are unable to feel empathy at all. I have always been interested in this generalization because Autism Spectrum Disorder describes a range of conditions, which in many ways cannot be lumped together under one name. In this research paper I am interested to look at if it is true that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder are unable to feel empathy, or if there is a barrier with communication within themselves and to others.

One possible source that I have found is SAGE Journals “Not knowing what I feel: Emotional empathy in autism spectrum disorders”. This study tracked physiological response with self-reported responses to distressing videos. They found that the physiological responses between the experimental and control groups were similar even though there was disparity in the self-report. This supports my hypothesis that for some the disconnect might not be in feeling empathy, but instead in interpreting and expressing empathy.

About 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, which means that it is far from rare. The understanding of how empathy is related to Autism Spectrum Disorders is crucial for researchers and caretakers alike.

Possible Sources:

Aan het Rot, Marije, and Koen Hogenelst. “The Influence of Affective Empathy and Autism Spectrum Traits on Empathic Accuracy.” Ed. Angela Sirigu. PLoS ONE 9.6 (2014): e98436. PMC. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

Kennett, Jeanette. “Autism, Empathy and Moral Agency. (Philosophical Abstracts).” The Review of Metaphysics 55 (2002): 673. Print. 14 Nov. 2016

Lombardo, Michael V. et al. “Self-Referential Cognition and Empathy in Autism.” Ed. Paul Zak. PLoS ONE 2.9 (2007): e883. PMC. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

Montgomery, Charlotte B. et al. “Do Adults with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome Differ in Empathy and Emotion Recognition?” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 46 (2016): 1931–1940. PMC. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

Trimmer, Emily, Skye McDonald, and Jacqueline Ann Rushby. “Not Knowing what I Feel: Emotional Empathy in Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Autism (2016)Print.14 Nov. 2016

Works Cited:

“Autism Spectrum Disorder: Data & Statistics.” July 11, 2016 Web. 15 Nov. 2016

Trimmer, Emily, Skye McDonald, and Jacqueline Ann Rushby. “Not Knowing what I Feel: Emotional Empathy in Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Autism (2016)Print.14 Nov. 2016

The Effect of Morality on Empathy

Empathy is one of the most difficult topics to understand. There is no agreed upon definition in the academic community, and in the common population it is often misunderstood. The video above provides a strong definition of empathy. The reality is that is a very broad and oversimplified definition; however I could write a whole separate essay defining empathy, and this enough for the purpose of this blog. One thing that I have found is that people believe that they can easily empathize; yet we still see limitations in human empathy. With this it is apparent that human ability to empathize is fluid based on situation. So how do different factors affect human ability to empathize? One such factor is morality. Human ability to empathize is strongly influenced by our moral code. The three blog summaries below examine how morality interacts with our ability to empathize.

First on the relationship between empathy and morality. Majority of the research is geared toward how empathy affects human ability to make moral judgements. The relationship between the two, however, is not unidirectional. “Since our aesthetic judgement is affected by the moral character of the object of aesthetic judgement, a person’s moral decisions might influence the extent to which we empathize with this person,” (Ugazio et al, 167). Empathizing is easier when the person that is the object of the empathy is similar to the empathizer. Thus when morality is involved when the moral codes of the two people line up, empathy occurs with greater ease.

In “Where Morton Gets It Wrong” there is this idea that sometimes our morals rightfully inhibit us from empathizing with others. In his essay, “Empathy for the Devil,” Morton suggests that as a society we are unwilling, not unable, to empathize with those who commit true atrocities, and that this limits our ability to fully empathize in every day situations (Morton, 330). I disagree. Our moral values prevent us from empathizing with those who have committed true atrocities. We need that moral value to prevent us from empathizing and in turn preventing us from committing atrocities ourselves.Because the moral codes of the person who committed the atrocity don’t align with our own moral code, empathy is inhibited.

In the second blog in this sequence “The Damage Social Media Does to Empathy” we examine another time when human morality may inhibit empathy; however, different from with Morton, in this case it can be damaging. The examination of how social media effects empathy is an especially controversial topic because of how young social media is. There are no guidelines on how to properly behave on social media, as there are proper ways to send an email or talk on the phone, so it is hard to understand how it is affecting our society. One specific case is that of 16-year-old Phoebe Cannop, who received negative backlash after she created a racist photograph of her self. Because of the backlash she ended up taking her own life (Matthews). While social media does a lot of good, but in the long run it lowers our ability to empathize with individuals. Our inability to see the whole person behind a social media post allows us to view them for the one disagreeable post and label ourselves as morally superior. While someone may see it as a misalignment of moral codes, it is only perceived and not true misalignment. Empathy is inhibited none the less, but it can cause detrimental effects to the person on the other side of the screen who may have been misjudged.

Finally in “The Demystification of Jean Louise”, through the book Go Set a Watchman, an examination of how growing up and developing our own moral codes that differ from the morals of someone who we hold dear can affect our ability to empathize with them. Jean Louise grows up and learns that Atticus and her hometown are not what she remembered. It is difficult because she loves Atticus dearly, but this fundamental moral disagreement that she has with him is pulling her away (Lee). Initially Jean Louise finds it difficult to empathize with Atticus because she feels his morals are misaligned with her own. She finds the disagreement forces a distance between them that was never there when she was a child. Ultimately she