Autism and Types of Empathy
Twenty eight people posted their scores on the forum (including myself). One was excluded from this analysis because her profile described her as the family member of an autistic person instead of describing her as autistic. The remaining 27 were 11 males and 16 females (anecdotal observation suggests a more even gender ratio of autistic posters on forums than is found in epidemiological studies, probably suggesting that women are more likely to seek out an autistic community). According to their profiles, 8 were diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, 4 were diagnosed with another autism spectrum condition, 8 were self-diagnosed autistics and 7 were unsure if they were autistic or not.
Firstly, the accuracy of self-diagnosis has been questioned, and the unsure individuals could turn out to have conditions other than autism as well. So I compared diagnosed to undiagnosed on all four subtests, and found no significant differences (fantasy p=.836, perspective-taking p=.740, empathic concern p=.188 and personal distress p=.699). In addition, a one-way ANOVA of all four diagnostic groups found no significant differences, though the 'other ASD' group was very small so this has limited accuracy.
Average scores for the whole group were (comparison scores in brackets taken from the thread):
- Fantasy - 16.19+/-7.67 (average scores: 15.73 for men; 18.75 for women)
- Perspective Taking - 9.85+/-7.06 (average scores: 16.78 for men; 17.96 for women)
- Empathic Concern - 17.19+/-6.63 (average scores: 19.04 for men; 21.67 for women)
- Personal Distress - 16.22+/-6.17 (average scores: 9.46 for men; 12.28 for women)
Then I ran a one-sample T-test to compare the participants' scores to the previously-reported averages. For Fantasy, since it showed gender differences, I compared males and females separately to their own gender's means. For the others, I took the average of the two gender means for comparison. The results were:
- Fantasy - male p=.068 (almost significant), female p=.778 (not significant)
- Perspective Taking - p>.001 (highly significant)
- Empathic Concern - p=.020 (significant)
- Personal Distress - p>.001 (highly significant)
Oh, and incidentally, my own scores were Fantasy 25, Empathic Concern 19, Perspective Taking 12, and Personal Distress 25.