affective empathy vs. cognitive empathy (theory of mind?)

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Joined: 1 Dec 2006
Age: 38
Gender: Male
Posts: 323

11 Feb 2017, 2:42 pm

Affective empathy, also called emotional empathy:[50] the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another's mental states.[49] Our ability to empathize emotionally is based on emotional contagion:[50] being affected by another's emotional or arousal state.[51]
Cognitive empathy: the capacity to understand another's perspective or mental state.[21][49][52] The terms cognitive empathy and theory of mind are often used synonymously, but due to a lack of studies comparing theory of mind with types of empathy, it is unclear whether these are equivalent.[53]

For me it's like this:
I have horrendous amounts of Affective empathy, and no cognitive empathy WHAT SO EVER. Like I totally copy the other person's mood without even noticing that it's the other person's mood or emotion and I wonder why I'm angry, sad, hate myself (maybe because the given person hates himself at that moment?) and can't make sense of that all.
And I keep annoying others because I can't respect their current mood.

Can you relate?
btw: It turned out I have Pseudotumor Cerebri. Also called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypretension. basically too much pressure around the brain. Probably, I've had that since ever. So maybe it's not AS but "just" plain old brain damage in my case. But I suppose mild continous brain insult since childhood can cause AS symptoms too so we are back to AS somehow again maybe.
Still, can you relate?


Just a Link. The Germans (I suppose?) found out Aspies have normal emotional empathy and low Cognitive empathy.
Doesn't explain my case still. I have extreme emotional empathy....

Aspie score: 131 of 200
NT score: 34 of 200
Possibly Aspie (diagnosed by an autism expert, doc moves abroad, forced to change docs and all say it's schizophrenia NOS or schizo-affective disorde or personality disorders. initial doc was a colleague of uncle Simon btw. you do the math.). (edit: by Uncle Simon I mean Simon Baron Cohen. Just to clear things up.)


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Joined: 4 Feb 2010
Gender: Female
Posts: 25,976
Location: Pacific Northwest

11 Feb 2017, 3:00 pm

I thought it was pretty normal to be affected by other peoples moods. If other people are upset or stressed out, you are too. If other people are hyper and anxious, you get that way yourself. If your own children are whiny and not taking no for an answer, you get anxious and short tempered. If you get frustrated with your child, they also get frustrated so it makes it harder for them to learn. My mom says this is all normal. I never saw it as empathy though. I have noticed it in humans like when one person starts yelling, the other starts yelling and that is why people scream at each other during fights. Their own emotions affect each other. I know when my mother gets mad at me or frustrated with me, it makes me tense and anxious. I pick up on her emotions. Though some people feel them more strongly than others which is what they are called empaths.

Son: Diagnosed w/anxiety and ADHD. Also academic delayed.

Daughter: NT, no diagnoses.


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Joined: 23 Feb 2010
Gender: Female
Posts: 20,414
Location: South-East England

11 Feb 2017, 4:02 pm

I have very high emotional empathy, and average cognitive empathy.

Aged 31
On antidepressants
Have ASD, ADHD and anxiety disorder
Empathy score: 61 out of a possible 80. (High)

Sea Gull
Sea Gull

Joined: 6 Aug 2016
Age: 29
Gender: Female
Posts: 223
Location: Scotland

11 Feb 2017, 9:44 pm

I'm pretty sure i'm impaired in both domains but if I conciosuly work out where the other person is coming from/ have it explained to me in detail then I will experience a 'shift' and be able to respond appropriately.

The exception is if I've been in the situation myself in which case I know how it feels (for myself at least) and so can respond appropriately.

At the very least I feel I'm less selfish these days and so when my partner is upset ether with me or in general then I will usually respond in a way I know to be effective whether I'm experience 'normal' empathy or not.

Like most people I am effected by other's moods (hyper people result in my being hyper, angry people intimidate me even if it's not directed at me) but i wouldn't consider a situation like that 'empathising' unless I've misunderstood the concept?

Diagnosed ASD Aug 2016, confirmed Dec 2016.
Also have OCD and various 'issues'.


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Joined: 9 Nov 2014
Gender: Female
Posts: 1,124

11 Feb 2017, 11:33 pm

Some "experts" say we lack cognitive but not affective empathy. Others say we lack affective but not cognitive empathy.

They should make up their f*****g minds already.