Autist’s Corner: What Is Empathy?

I’ve thought for a while now that the concept of “empathy” most commonly used when talking about autism is excessively narrow.


Autistics — especially Asperger’s autistics — are often said to lack empathy, which usually means two things: we can’t infer a person’s emotional state from their facial expression, body language, tone of voice or whatever other indirect cues they may be sending out, and we don’t respond emotionally to other people’s emotions, even when they are clear to us.


Here’s Simon Baron-Cohen’s definition of empathy, taken from the first chapter of his book The Essential Difference: Male and Female Brains and the Truth about Autism*: