I realize that the diagnostic criteria for Asperger's Syndrome (AS) have changed with the latest version of the DSM, but there was a criterion in the DSM-IV for AS that I didn't understand: "marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as ....gestures to regulate social interaction". Can anyone please tell me what this means or give some common examples of behaviors that would qualify?

Also, when one evaluates "empathy", is one considering the internal state of the subject or his manifest behaviors? For example, I may not truly empathize with your situation, but from society, maybe I know that I should, so I "act" as if I do. Thank you.

  • $\begingroup$ Good question; welcome to CogSci! My comment is getting a little too long, so I'll post it as an answer, but I hope you won't find its vagueness discouraging, and I hope others will be forthcoming. $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2014 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ I hope this isn't poor form, but I wanted to say that this is one of the best questions I've come across on CogSci: clear, concise, and precise! Welcome and please stay! $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2014 at 23:58

1 Answer 1


I don't know what the author(s) or editors intended this to mean exactly, but I would guess that examples could include smiling, shrugging, head-scratching, pointing, holding out one's hand to invite a handshake, management of personal space, etc. I'd love to know if I'm incorrect on any of these, but I'm a little pessimistic about finding out TBH. There may be no strict definition available. As such, matters like these are sometimes left open to interpretation based on professional experience, local clinical goals and policies, or whatever really...It's a bit of a problem for criterion validity, to say the least.

Your second question about empathy is a little unspecific, but maybe this is your intention. Generally speaking, there are several ways to evaluate empathy. Behavioral data allow objective assessment by others, but as you suspect, subjects can often act in ways that deceive clinicians, researchers, or other observers deliberately. Physiological data may be harder to manipulate, but this is not always the case, as the history of physiological lie detection has demonstrated (e.g., I've heard of subjects jabbing themselves with thumbtacks hidden in their shoes to elevate their stress at baseline measurements). "Internal states" as otherwise defined tend to be accessible only to subjective experience, which must be self-reported. Clearly this is no more lie-proof. Thus the optimal solution when deception is expected is probably to try to catch liars and exclude their data for any purposes with larger concerns than the liars in question (e.g., nomothetic population research). Where the individual is the primary concern (e.g., clinical diagnosis for the patient's sake), I'm afraid I don't know of a reliable solution for deception in general.

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    $\begingroup$ Your interpretation regarding "gestures that regulate social interaction" is pretty much spot-on with the other sources I've consulted. But, I think my question regarding empathy though isn't so much about lying as social conditioning. TBH, I don't know how one would "measure" empathy, but if it involved answering questions about how an individual would feel or act towards another, I think a person who has Asperger's Syndrome and is high-functioning would realize how they should respond, even if they do not feel that way and this would bias their responses. Technically, it's lying, but... $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2014 at 3:39

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