Transgressors, victims, and cry babies: Is basic moral judgment spared in autism?

Human social intelligence comprises a wide range of complex cognitive and affective processes that appear to be selectively impaired in autistic spectrum disorders. The study of these neuro- developmental disorders and the study of canonical social intelligence have advanced rapidly over the last twenty years by investigating the two together. Specifically, studies of autism have provided important insights into the nature of ‘theory of mind’ abilities, their normal development and underlying neural systems. At the same time, the idea of impaired development of the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying ‘theory of mind’ has shed new light on the nature of autistic disorders. This general approach is not restricted to the study of impairments but extends to mapping areas of social intelligence that are spared in autism. Here we investigate basic moral judgment and find that it appears to be substantially intact in children with autism who are severely impaired in ‘theory of mind’. At the same time, we extend studies of moral reasoning in normal development by way of a new control task, the ‘cry baby’ task. Cry baby scenarios, in which the distress of the victim is ‘unreasonable’ or ‘unjustified,’ do not elicit moral condemnation from normally developing preschoolers or from children with autism. Judgments of moral transgressions in which the victim displays distress are therefore not likely the result of a simple automatic reaction to the distress and more likely involve moral reasoning. Mapping the cognitive co-morbidity patterns of disordered development should encompass both impairments and sparings because both will be needed to make sense of the neural and genetic levels.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index Translate to english
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Timothy Krahn & Andrew Fenton (2009). Autism, Empathy and Questions of Moral Agency. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 39 (2):145-166.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Somogy Varga (2010). Explaining Impaired Play in Autism. Journal für Philosophie Und Psychiatrie 3 (1):1-13.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

19 ( #147,771 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

5 ( #147,227 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.