Doctorate in Clinical Psychology: Main Research Portfolio
: 1) Mental health workers' attitudes towards individuals with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder: A systematic literature review; 2) Improving the information and support given to families and those closest to military veterans with PTSD; 3) Cognitive empathy, affective empathy, and empathic accuracy in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

  • Karen Mckenzie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy)


People with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are proposed to have deficits in cognitive empathy (CE), with mixed evidence for deficits in affective empathy (AE). Fewer studies have explored empathic accuracy (EA), the ability to track changes in others’ thoughts and feelings, in ASD. This study examined whether people with ASD (N= 29) had impairments in CE, AE and EA when compared to typically developing individuals (N= 31). Empathy was measured using the Empathic Accuracy Task (EAT) (Zaki et al., 2009) and a self-report questionnaire. The EAT involved watching videos of actors recalling autobiographical experiences whilst depicting discrete emotions. Participants continuously rated the intensity of the emotion expressed (indexing EA), identified the emotion (CE), and indicated whether they shared the emotion (AE). The groups did not perform significantly differently on the EAT, with the exception that the ASD group scored lower in EA when viewing angry clips. The lack of significant differences between groups, particularly in regards to CE, contradict much of the existing literature and challenge the common assumption that people with a diagnosis of ASD ‘lack’ empathy. The findings also highlight a need for further research exploring empathic responses to anger in people with ASD.
Date of Award8 Sept 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJames Gregory (Supervisor), Cara Davis (Supervisor), Rachel Paskell (Supervisor), Ailsa Russell (Supervisor) & Graeme Fairchild (Supervisor)

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