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

Dev Psychopathol. Spring 2006;18(2):591-617. doi: 10.1017/S0954579406060305.

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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asperger Syndrome / psychology*
  • Asperger Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Autistic Disorder / rehabilitation*
  • Educational Status
  • Emotions
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multimedia*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Software
  • Teaching / methods