Social attention and empathy in high functioning women with autism spectrum disorders

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Social attention and empathy in high functioning women with autism spectrum disorders

Type: Research master thesis
Title: Social attention and empathy in high functioning women with autism spectrum disorders
Author: Bodrij, F. F.
Issue Date: 2014-09
Keywords: autism spectrum disorders
women
social attention
empathy
Abstract: Women with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have become focus of research only recently, thus far there is little knowledge about the female phenotype of ASD in relation to social information processing. This study focused on social cognition in high functioning women with ASD with specific focus on social attention and empathy. Participants consisted of 31 women with ASD and 29 non-clinical controls. Social attention was assessed by measuring eye fixation patterns using eye tracking while participant watched four movie clips of children expressing specific emotions. Empathic abilities were assessed using the informant reported Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). Results show deceased fixation duration on the face and mouth in women with ASD compared to non-clinical controls, no differences were found in fixation duration on the eyes, objects and outside the areas of interest. In addition, women with ASD had a reduced ability to take the other’s perspective, a reduced ability to imagine the actions and feelings of (fictional) characters, and experienced more personal distress in stressful situations compared to non-clinical controls. In women with ASD, a negative correlation was found between personal distress and total fixation duration to the face. It is concluded that women with ASD have a deviant attention in social situations and reduced cognitive empathic abilities, but have more distress in social situations al well. It is suggested that an attentional deployment hypothesis might explain the findings. These findings stress the need for adjusting diagnostic assessment and treatment of women with ASD to the female phenotype of ASD.
Supervisor: Rijn, S. van
Faculty: Faculty of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Department: Developmental Psychopathology in Education and Child Studies (Research master)
Specialisation: Developmental Psychopathology in Education and Child Studies
ECTS Credits: 45
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/29327
 

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