People with autism can recognise complex emotions such as regret and relief in fellow humans, shows a research that breaks a persistent stereotype that people with mental, emotional and behavioural disorders lack empathy and cannot understand emotion.
Psychologists from the University of Kent in Britain used eye-tracking technology to monitor the adults as they read stories in which a character made a decision and then experienced a positive or negative outcome.
They found that adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were quickly able to think about how things might have turned out differently (either better or worse than reality) and then judge whether the story character would regret or get relief which is known as counterfactual emotions.
The findings, published in the journal Autism Research, demonstrated that they were just as good at recognizing regret emotions in the character as adults without the condition and even better at computing relief.
"We have shown that contrary to previous research that has highlighted the difficulties adults with autism experience with empathy and perspective-taking, people with autism possess previously overlooked strengths in processing emotions," said lead author Heather Ferguson, a Professor from the varsity.