Affective vs. Cognitive Empathy



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theexternvoid
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 1:00 pm

Autistics are supposed to have poor empathy. Empathy is when you perceive something and it causes you to experience something more like the other than yourself.

But I have been reading that some researchers believe that there are two types of empathy and that they should not be lumped together as one thing.
* Affective empathy - The observer feels something due to the perception of another. Like feeling the heartbreak of a character in a movie who was just dumped by his girlfriend.
* Cognitive empathy - The observer knows what's going on in the other's mind. Like knowing that the character in the aforementioned movie is heartbroken but not sharing the feeling.

Questions: Are aspies & other autistics bad at just one of these or both? If both, worse at one moreso than the other?

It seemed to me that aspies could be good at cognitive empathy by employing logical deduction. Since some aspies show superior strength in logic, perhaps they could become better than the average NT regarding cognitive empathy with the proper study. But this is purely guessing from me.



Kon
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 1:43 pm

I'm much better at affective empathy. I hate feeling though, sometimes. It kinda pisses me off that I can't control it.



Tollorin
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:16 pm

Aspies are bad in cognitive empathy by definition. You talk about logic making someone potentialy good in it, but aspies then use logic to compensate for what come intuitively for NTs. More so, human beings are not as logical and driven by reason as they generally want to believe.

For affective empathy, aspies generally don't get lack of it. (A lack of affective empathy is called sociopathy.)



Inuyasha
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:21 pm

From what I've read people on the Spectrum do have empathy, we just don't always recognize when or why someone is feeling bad.



Craig28
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:26 pm

I have empathy for people that like me and care about me. C'mon guys, are you seriously berating me for a lack of empathy to murderers and child perverts. Yeah, a child pervert gets beaten badly - am I suppose to feel sad for him?

Don't f*****g say yes, otherwise you are showing that you are hypocrites. All I ever hear is bad things about child perverts.



theexternvoid
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:45 pm

Sounds like my definition of empathy is off. Cognitive empathy is something that just happens intuitively in NTs? Using rational analysis to determine how someone feels is not actually cognitive empathy but an alternative means to the same end as real cognitive empathy.

I don't believe that lack of affective empathy is sociopathy. A sociopath also needs to be amoral with no sense of guilt or remorse. You can be unable to naturally share someone's emotional experiences but still desire to be kind to others or experience guilt when you realize that you have harmed someone. That would preclude you from sociopathy.



KissOfMarmaladeSky
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:55 pm

As far as I've experienced, I have a lot of affective empathy. I can actually be almost brought to tears when I see someone suffer, especially a child, but I'm horrible at cognitive empathy. I don't often know what's going on in one's mind when feeling something, which can make me feel like an idiot around other people.

For example, I have almost cried because someone mentioned that a child fell and broke his tray today, but when my sister is upset, I'm often unsure what's wrong, and when I'm not sure what's wrong and I guess incorrectly, she can sometimes snap at me.

Currently, I'm taking an empathy test. I scored a thirty-seven, which is both low for women and for men, but still average...I'm a female, too, so that embarrases me...



merrymadscientist
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:40 pm

I am erratically empathetic, depending on my general mood and what else is going on. Sometimes I won't even notice that someone might be upset, other times I feel excessively bad about it to the extent I can be more upset than they are. Things in books or the news can make me terribly angry if I feel people are being treated unfairly, and I often empathise a lot with the sort of people who have committed terrible crimes due to strong emotions (such as shooting up schools because they are bullied, or murdering their cheating partner).

However, in general I can only empathise with feelings I have felt myself in the past. So people that commit crimes ultimately because others have been bad to them I understand, but people committing crimes through greed I don't. I can't empathise with someone feeling angry at another for something which isn't that person's fault - upset maybe, but not angry. And I find it difficult to empathise with things I find trivial, even though there are things that upset me that I am sure others would find trivial. So I think my empathy is based on experience (and I have had enough negative experiences to be quite empathetic by now) as well as logic - I have always analysed why negative things have happened to me, and if I see those happening to another I can understand them feeling bad about it, recall how I felt in that situation and feel bad for them.

The main thing I have a problem with is showing empathy, rather than feeling it. I really don't know what to do and if I do try to do or say anything it comes out awkward and fake sounding, even if I really mean it. I can't hug people - it just seems bizarre to me. What is easier is to offer practical advice rather than sympathy (if possible) and in fact this can sometimes be appreciated better than general sympathy as long as it isn't critical or too blunt. The other thing to do is to just listen (and I am good at this as it means I don't have to contribute too much) - in fact listening and practical advice are the sort of things professional therapists would do, and might well help people better than general sympathy. Certainly I hate getting non-descript sympathy from people (although I don't like them just to listen either as I start thinking they are bored) - what I like best is the feeling that the other person knows what you are going through by their own experience and their advice about what they did.

I think psychopaths are quite different - they can understand people extremely well, maybe better than most NTs, and know exactly how to act and what to say to hurt them the most. I would think it is probably almost the opposite from autism, which is a lack of understanding or knowing how to act.



Kon
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:54 pm

"Davis (1996) considered the evolutionary origins of empathy and concluded that affective responsivity [EE] may have evolved as a mechanism
for producing self-sacrificing behavior, while role-taking [CE] might have evolved to allow more successful competition with one’s primate peers"

"One way to test the hypothesis that CE and EE are separable systems is to look for the potential empathy disorders that are consistent with such
a relationship. I predicted the existence of four developmental empathy disorders:
(a) CE deficit disorder (low CE ability combined with high EE sensitivity),
(b) EE deficit disorder (low EE sensitivity combined with high CE ability),
(c) general empathy deficit disorder (low CE ability and low EE sensitivity), and
(d) general empathy surfeit disorder (high CE ability and high EE sensitivity).

I hypothesized that these four disorders tend to be part of (1) autism, (2) antisocial personality disorder, (3) schizoid personality disorder (and some cases of autism spectrum disorder), and (4) Williams syndrome, respectively."

http://cogprints.org/6799/1/TPRVol59No3-SMITH.pdf
http://www.springerlink.com/content/fl2 ... lltext.pdf

----------------------

J Autism Dev Disord. 2007 Apr;37(4):709-15.

Who cares? Revisiting empathy in Asperger syndrome. Rogers K, Dziobek I, Hassenstab J, Wolf OT, Convit A.

Millhauser Laboratories, Center for Brain Health, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.

Abstract
A deficit in empathy has consistently been cited as a central characteristic of Asperger syndrome (AS), but previous research on adults has predominantly focused on cognitive empathy, effectively ignoring the role of affective empathy. We administered the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), a multi-dimensional measure of empathy, and the Strange Stories test to 21 adults with AS and 21 matched controls. Our data show that while the AS group scored lower on the measures of cognitive empathy and theory of mind, they were no different from controls on one affective empathy scale of the IRI (empathic concern), and scored higher than controls on the other (personal distress). Therefore, we propose that the issue of empathy in AS should be revisited.



theexternvoid
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 4:06 pm

Which form(s) of empathy does the EQ test measure? Are there any on-line tests that score each of these independently?



Kon
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 4:10 pm

theexternvoid wrote:
Which form(s) of empathy does the EQ test measure? Are there any on-line tests that score each of these independently?


Mostly cognitive. That's one of the criticisms of that test that I've come across.



MotownDangerPants
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 5:57 pm

I definitely have more cognitive than affective empathy, but I do feel affective empathy in some circumstances,

It is rare for me, though.



ediself
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 6:07 pm

well, how is it called when someone breaks their leg in front of you and you can feel the pain? i can feel pain through a story told over the phone... is that empathy? i'm not sure about the emotions, as i sometimes doubt that people feel them as strongly as they express them, but physical pain is contagious to me.



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Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:57 pm

theexternvoid wrote:
Autistics are supposed to have poor empathy. Empathy is when you perceive something and it causes you to experience something more like the other than yourself.

But I have been reading that some researchers believe that there are two types of empathy and that they should not be lumped together as one thing.
* Affective empathy - The observer feels something due to the perception of another. Like feeling the heartbreak of a character in a movie who was just dumped by his girlfriend.
* Cognitive empathy - The observer knows what's going on in the other's mind. Like knowing that the character in the aforementioned movie is heartbroken but not sharing the feeling.

Questions: Are aspies & other autistics bad at just one of these or both? If both, worse at one moreso than the other?

It seemed to me that aspies could be good at cognitive empathy by employing logical deduction. Since some aspies show superior strength in logic, perhaps they could become better than the average NT regarding cognitive empathy with the proper study. But this is purely guessing from me.


Aspies should be able to master cognitive empathy. It is empathy "by the numbers" but it should promote appropriate behavior.

ruveyn



Kon
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Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:18 pm

ruveyn wrote:
Aspies should be able to master cognitive empathy. It is empathy "by the numbers" but it should promote appropriate behavior.


All the papers I have come across argue the complete opposite of that view at least with respect to Asperger's:

There is cognitive empathy (CE) deficit disorder (low CE activity combined with high emotional empathy or EE sensitivity). In fact, high CE combined with low EE are characteristics of sociopaths not Asperger's.

Can you cite one article that shows that Aspies have or should be able to master cognitive empathy. I'd really be interested in looking at it.



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