Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Sharee Light, PhD

Second Advisor

Lindsey Cohen, PhD

Third Advisor

Diana Robins, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Erin Tone, PhD


Previous research has established that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have impairments in both cognitive empathy and executive functioning (EF), although little attention has been devoted to the relationships among these domains and ASD traits. Furthermore, the presence of an emotional empathy deficit in individuals with ASD has only begun to be explored, and studies have yielded discrepant findings likely attributable to differences in methodology and limited consideration of positive versus negative content. There is some evidence to suggest that EF may be important for emotional empathy and ASD traits. The current study aimed to clarify the relationships among these variables by examining the possibility that EF mediates the relationship between empathy and ASD traits in neurotypical adults. Although hypotheses regarding mediation were not supported, the study revealed a novel finding that positive emotional empathy was negatively associated with ASD traits, whereas cognitive empathy was not associated with ASD traits. Furthermore, planning ability was positively associated with cognitive empathy. Implications for future research based on these findings are discussed.