University of Hertfordshire


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Original languageEnglish
Article number717877
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Early online date17 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Dec 2021


Deficits in empathy have been considered hallmarks in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) but are also considered to underlie antisocial behaviour associated with individuals with callous unemotional traits (CU). Research has suggested that individuals with autism spectrum disorders show more difficulties with cognitive empathy, and that individuals diagnosed with behaviours difficulties, characterised by CU traits and antisocial behaviour, demonstrate low affective empathy. In the current manuscript we present findings of two studies. The first study describes the validation of a new stimulus set developed for the empathic accuracy task, focused on its cognitive component. The second study compares the performance of 27 adolescents with ASD, 27 age matched typically developing adolescents and 17 adolescents with behavioural difficulties on the empathic accuracy task and a self-report measure of empathy. While, no differences were observed between the three groups across the empathy accuracy task, the adolescents with ASD and CD showed deficits in their cognitive empathy across the self-report measure. Adolescents with ASD showed lower scores in particularly their perspective taking abilities, whereas the adolescences with behavioural difficulties showed more difficulties with their online simulation. No differences in self-reported affective empathy across the three groups were observed. Clinical implications of the findings are discussed.


© 2021 Vilas, Reniers and Ludlow. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).

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