Understanding of Simple and Complex Emotions in Non-retarded Children with Autism


Requests for reprints to: M. Sigman, UCLA/NPI, Rm 68327, 760 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1759, U.S.A.


Abstract Non-retarded autistic children are compared to normal controls on measures of emotion expression and recognition. In general, autism subjects recounted appropriate examples of simple and complex emotions, and accurately labeled relatively ambiguous, affect expression in pictures, Autistic children manifested some difficulty talking about socially derived emotions, pride and embarrassment. They required more time and more prompts, their responses were more tentative and “scripted”, and they displayed limited understanding of the salience of Others in embarrassing situations. Results are discussed in relation to theory of mind impairment and compensation strategies in autism.