Autism, Empathizing-Aystemizing (e-s) Theory, and Pathological Altruism

Simon Baron-Cohen

in Pathological Altruism

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738571
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918669 | DOI:
Autism, Empathizing-Aystemizing (e-s) Theory, and Pathological Altruism

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Empathy involves the ability to imagine what someone else is thinking or feeling, whereas systemizing relates to the ability to understand the rules underlying systems as diverse as a car engine, a language, or the organization of a stamp collection. Studies have shown empathy and systemizing are important in understanding both typical sex differences and autism spectrum conditions—a link arising from the Empathizing-Systemizing (E-S) theory. Autism spectrum conditions are characterized by a profile in which systemizing is intact or superior, but empathy is impaired (S 〈〈 E). This raises the possibility of a mirror image of autism—a condition in which systemizing might be impaired, but empathy would be intact or even superior (hyperempathetic, E 〈〈 S). Such a hypothetical group in the population might not come to clinical attention, and theoretically may overlap with the notion of pathological altruism.

Keywords: empathy; empathizing; systemizing; hyperempathy; autism spectrum

Chapter.  1746 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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