The impact of autism spectrum disorder and alexithymia on judgments of moral acceptability.
Brewer R., Marsh AA., Catmur C., Cardinale EM., Stoycos S., Cook R., Bird G.
One's own emotional response toward a hypothetical action can influence judgments of its moral acceptability. Some individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit atypical emotional processing, and moral judgments. Research suggests, however, that emotional deficits in ASD are due to co-occurring alexithymia, meaning atypical moral judgments in ASD may be due to alexithymia also. Individuals with and without ASD (matched for alexithymia) judged the moral acceptability of emotion-evoking statements and identified the emotion evoked. Moral acceptability judgments were predicted by alexithymia. Crucially, however, this relationship held only for individuals without ASD. While ASD diagnostic status did not directly predict either judgment, those with ASD did not base their moral acceptability judgments on emotional information. Findings are consistent with evidence demonstrating that decision-making is less subject to emotional biases in those with ASD.