Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

William Matthews

Second Advisor

Sara Whitcomb

Third Advisor

Amanda Marcotte

Subject Categories

Psychiatry and Psychology


Perspective-taking skills are central to the successful navigation of social situations. Children need perspective-taking skills to help them correctly interpret different cues and accurately assess social situations so they can determine how to best respond. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) exhibit marked impairments in this area. In order to develop successful social skills interventions for this population, it is critical that we have a strong understanding of the nature of their deficits. While there is robust evidence that children with ASD experience difficulty making inferences about the beliefs of others, research on their ability to infer emotions has had more mixed results (Baldwin, 1991; Baron-Cohen, 1991; Happe, 1994; Hillier and Allinson, 2002; Kaland et al., 2005; Joliffe & Baron-Cohen, 1999; Serra et al., 2002; Williams & Happe, 2010). This study examined how well children with autism spectrum disorders are able to make emotional inferences using three different measures of emotion attribution. The measures were administered to a clinical sample of participants with high functioning-autism spectrum disorders (HF-ASD) and a comparison sample of typically developing participants to determine whether individuals with HF-ASD experienced more difficulty making emotional inferences from different cues than their typically developing peers. The hypotheses that children with HF-ASD make fewer spontaneous emotional inferences and have lower levels of emotional awareness than their typically developing peers were also tested. Finally, performance on these emotional inferencing measures was examined to determine whether they were able to reliably discriminate between participants with different levels of autism-related symptomatology. Participants with autism performed as well as their peers on all measures of emotion attribution in this study. These findings and their implications are explored.