A rule-based theoretical account of social stories to address the double empathy problem

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4 Citations (SciVal)


Social Stories™ (SS) is one of the most popular and researched interventions for autistic children. To date, research that focuses on outcomes has been prioritized over the investigation of the psychological mechanisms that inform the intervention. In this article we consider theoretical accounts proposed thus far which could underpin SS. We argue that mechanisms that are based on social deficit theories lack validity, and propose a rule-based theoretical account to inform a strengths-based approach toward conceptualizing the mechanisms that underpin SS. We apply this account to the ‘double-empathy problem’ to propose that SS can be adapted to involve all parties in the development and delivery of SS support by adopting a rule-based perspective. We use the example of systemizing (the drive to analyze and explore systems in terms of ‘if-and-then’ rules), which is proposed to be a relative autistic strength, as a form of rule-based thinking that can provide a theoretical account of SS and a framework to address the double-empathy problem.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1085355
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Data availability statement:
The original contributions presented in the study are included in
the article/supplementary material, further inquiries can be directed
to the corresponding author.


  • autism
  • double empathy problem
  • psychological mechanism
  • rule-based
  • Social Stories™
  • systemizing
  • theoretical account

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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