Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 10, pp 3925–3938 | Cite as

Autistic Traits and Prosocial Behaviour in the General Population: Test of the Mediating Effects of Trait Empathy and State Empathic Concern

  • Xudong Zhao
  • Xiujun Li
  • Youming Song
  • Wendian ShiEmail author
S.I. : Empathy in Autism


Although the core characteristics associated with autistic traits are impaired social interactions, there are few studies examining how autistic traits translate into prosocial behaviour in daily life. The current study explored the effect of autistic traits on prosocial behaviour and the mediating role of multimodal empathy (trait empathy and state empathic concern). The results showed that autistic traits reduced prosocial behaviour directly and indirectly through complex mediation by multimodal empathy. The findings revealed the internal mechanism of autistic traits impeding prosocial behaviour and expanded our understandings of social behaviour in autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) and autistic traits in the general population. Furthermore, the results have implications for social adaptability interventions for individuals with ASCs and high levels of autistic traits.


Autism spectrum conditions Autistic traits Trait empathy State empathic concern Prosocial behaviour 


Author Contributions

The individual contributions of authors to the manuscript: XZ and XL conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and performed the statistical analysis and drafted the manuscript; YS performed the measurement and participated in the interpretation of the data; WS conceived of the study, and participated in its design and coordination and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Number 31160201) to Wendian Shi.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, School of EducationShanghai Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.School of Psychology and Cognitive ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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