STUDY ALERT: Emotion Regulation in Asperger’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism
Emotion Regulation in Asperger’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism
Andrea C. Samson, Oswald Huber, and James J. Gross
It is generally thought that individuals with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism (AS/HFA) have deficits in Theory of Mind. These deficits have been previously linked to problems with social cognition. However, we reasoned that AS/HFA individuals’ Theory of Mind deficits also might lead to problems with emotion regulation. To assess emotional functioning in AS/HFA, 27 AS/HFA adults (16 women) and 27 age-, gender-, and education-matched typically developing (TD) participants completed a battery of measures of emotion experience, labeling, and regulation. With respect to emotion experi- ence, individuals with AS/HFA reported higher levels of negative emotions, but similar levels of positive emotions, compared with TD individuals. With respect to emotion labeling, individuals with AS/HFA had greater difficulties identifying and describing their emotions, with approximately two-thirds exceed- ing the cutoff for alexithymia. With respect to emotion regulation, individuals with AS/HFA used reappraisal less frequently than TD individuals and reported lower levels of reappraisal self-efficacy. Although AS/HFA individuals used suppression more frequently than TD individuals, no difference in suppression self-efficacy was found. It is important to note that these differences in emotion regulation were evident even when controlling for emotion experience and labeling. Implications of these deficits are discussed, and future research directions are proposed.