Does the sexuality of psychopaths differ from neurotypical sexuality?

People with Asperger's Syndrome often develop passionately nurtured special interests; this boy deals with molecular structures

As Asperger syndrome is a profound developmental disorder within the autism spectrum, which is mainly characterized by weaknesses in the areas of social interaction and communication and is determined by restricted and stereotyped activities and interests. Above all, the ability to intuitively recognize non-verbal and para-linguistic signals in other people and to intuitively transmit them oneself is impaired. As a result, the contact and communication behavior of Asperger's autism appears “strange” and clumsy and like a mild variant of early childhood autism (Kanner syndrome). Since their intelligence is normally developed in most cases, they are not perceived by those around them as autistic, but at most as "strange". Occasionally, Asperger's syndrome coincides with giftedness or island talent. The syndrome, which is considered to be congenital and incurable, becomes noticeable from around the age of four.[1]

Asperger's syndrome is not only associated with impairments, but often also with considerable strengths, for example in the areas of perception, introspection, attention or memory. The question of whether it is to be classified as a disease or a standard variant of human information processing is therefore answered inconsistently by Asperger's autism and relatives as well as by scientists and doctors. The research community also disagrees on the question of whether Asperger's syndrome is to be viewed as an independent disorder or merely as a gradual variant of early childhood autism.

The discovery of Asperger's Syndrome

Because of its proximity to the neurologically normal, Asperger's syndrome was described and discussed late in psychiatry. The oldest representation comes from the Russian child psychiatrist Grunja Sucharewa, who used the term "schizoid psychopathy" for it in 1926. The Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger called it "autistic psychopathy" in his post-doctoral thesis, which he submitted in 1944.[2]

Asperger's work appeared almost simultaneously with Leo Kanner's fundamental essay on early childhood autism from 1943; it is assumed, however, that both authors initially knew nothing about each other's work.[3] While Kanner's work published in the USA immediately attracted international attention, the essay by the Austrian Asperger was hardly known beyond the German-speaking scientific community, as was an essay by the Dutch child psychiatrist Dirk Arnold van Krevelen, who in 1962 differentiated Asperger's "autistic psychopathy" from Tried Kanner's autism, initially met with little response.[4]

Asperger's syndrome was not noticed by the international research community until after 1981, when the British psychiatrist Lorna Wing continued Asperger's work, locating the disorder, which was previously known as "psychopathy", in the spectrum of autism and naming the syndrome after Hans Asperger. In 1991, Asperger's Syndrome was also included in the World Health Organization's ICD medical classification system. It has appeared in the DSM-IV, the classification system of the American Psychiatric Association, since 1994.[5][6]

Another pioneer in the field is developmental psychologist Uta Frith, who researches and teaches in London.

Differentiation between Asperger's Syndrome and Highly Functional Autism

In the English-speaking world, a distinction is made between various forms of early childhood autism - including Highly Functional Autism (HFA), in which intelligence is not impaired.[7] The distinction between HFA and Asperger's Syndrome has not yet been clarified, which is why both terms are sometimes used synonymously. Much research indicates that the similarities are far greater than the differences.[8] Lorna Wing also proposed in 1991 to describe autism as a seamless continuum of disorders of different severity, in which HFA and Asperger's syndrome are mild forms.[9] This is why many authors today speak of “autism spectrum disorders” (ASD).[10] Since the spectrum of autism does not end in Asperger's syndrome, but extends far into normality - for example into "completely normal" shyness or solitude - the term "Broader Autism Phenotype" was used for appearances with weakly developed autistic personality traits and behaviors. (BAP) embossed.[11]

The authors who continue to explicitly differentiate between HFA and Asperger's Syndrome include the research team of Yale Child Study Center.[12]


The prevalence of Asperger's syndrome in childhood varies depending on the diagnostic criteria used. According to the DSM-IV and ICD-10 criteria, the prevalence is currently estimated at 2–3.3 children per 10,000 school-age children. Eight out of nine people affected are male.[13] The U.S. Centers for Disease Control now estimates the prevalence of the entire spectrum of autism in the United States to be between 1:80 and 1: 240. The mean value is 1: 110.[14][15] Representative studies on the frequency of Asperger's syndrome in adulthood are not yet available.[1] However, the characteristic tends to persist into adulthood.[16]

Diagnostic criteria and assessment scales


The ICD of the World Health Organization lists the following criteria:[17]

  • qualitative deviations in mutual social interactions (as in autism)
  • a restricted, stereotypical, repetitive repertoire of interests and activities
  • no general developmental delay (unlike autism)
  • no language deficit (unlike autism)


The American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV lists the following criteria:[18]

  • Qualitative impairment of social interaction
(at least 2 of the following characteristics):
  1. noticeable impairment of several non-verbal behaviors that control social interaction, such as eye contact, facial expression, posture, and gestures
  2. Relationships with peers are not developed or not developed according to the level of development
  3. Lack of spontaneous turning to others in order to share joy, interests or pride about an achievement with them (for example, affected children tend not to show other people things that interest them)
  4. Lack of social or emotional reciprocity
  • Limited repetitive and stereotypical patterns of behavior, interests and activities
(at least 2 of the following characteristics):
  1. extensive preoccupation with one or more stereotypical and limited interest patterns that are abnormal either in terms of intensity or in terms of the subject matter
  2. obviously rigid adherence to certain non-functional routines or rituals
  3. stereotypical and repetitive motor habits (e.g. hand or finger movements or complex movements of the whole body)
  4. persistent preoccupation with object parts
  • The disorder causes clinically significant impairment in social, professional, or other important areas.
  • No clinically significant general speech delay (e.g. use of single words in the 2nd year of life, communicative sentences in the 3rd year of life).
  • No clinically meaningful delay in developing cognition or practical skills (self-help skills). and adaptive behavior (except for social interaction), as well as - in childhood - curiosity about the environment.
  • The disorder does not qualify for another pervasive developmental disorder or schizophrenia.

Gillberg and Gillberg (1989)

As early as the late 1980s, individual authors, such as the British psychiatrist Digby Tantam[19] and the Canadian research team Peter Szatmari, Rebecca Bremner and Joan Nagy,[20] Diagnostic criteria formulated.[21] The most common criteria today come from the Swedish child psychiatrists Christopher and Carina Gillberg:[22]

(at least two of the following characteristics):
  1. Inability to interact with their peers
  2. lack of desire to interact with their peers
  3. lack of understanding of social signals
  4. socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior
(at least one of the following characteristics):
  1. Exclusion of other activities
  2. repetitively following the activity
  3. more routine than importance
(at least one of the following characteristics):
  1. for yourself, in relation to certain aspects of life
  2. for others
  • Speech and language peculiarities
(at least three of the following characteristics):
  1. delayed development
  2. (on the surface) perfect linguistic expression
  3. formal, pedantic language
  4. strange prosody, strange voice characteristics
  5. impaired understanding including misinterpretation of literal / implied meanings
  • Nonverbal communication problems
(at least two of the following characteristics):
  1. limited eye contact
  2. limited gestures
  3. awkward or awkward body language
  4. limited facial expressions
  5. inappropriate expression
  6. strange stare
  • Motor awkwardness
Poor performance in studying neurological development


While the first abnormalities of early childhood autism appear in the first months of life, Asperger's syndrome only becomes manifest after the third year of life.[1] General characteristics are a qualitative impairment of social communication and interaction, a lack of empathy, sensory, motor and language abnormalities as well as pronounced special interests.[5]

Motor skills

In Asperger's syndrome, there are often some motor abnormalities that are normally absent in early childhood autism - even in highly functional autism. These include awkward and awkward motor skills, motor clumsiness and gross and fine motor coordination disorders.[5] Some children with Asperger's show, when they are excited or anxious, motor mannerisms that also occur in early childhood autism, such as flapping arms, hands or fingers.[23]

Social behavior

Like autistic children, children with Asperger's syndrome rarely and only fleetingly make eye contact. Their lack of empathy and incomprehension for interpersonal interactions and situations is particularly noticeable in everyday life. The American psychologists Marshall Duke and Stephen Nowicki used the term for the inability to read nonverbal signals correctly dyssemia embossed.[24] Children with Asperger's Syndrome are socially isolated and are infectious because of their behavior problems.[5] In the class, they are often teased, marginalized and bullied.[25] In the English-speaking world, many people with Asperger's jokingly refer to their being different as "Wrong Planet Syndrome". False Planet Syndrome) and express their feeling of being stranded by mistake on a strange planet whose rules and inhabitants they do not understand.[26] While some doctors, such as Gillberg, assume that Asperger's autistic person does not want to interact with their peers in the first place, sufferers have occasionally reported that, on the contrary, they desperately want contacts with their peers, but fail all too easily when trying to establish such contacts.[27]

People with Asperger's Syndrome, even if they want to make contact with others, are often perceived by non-autistic people as formal, callous, fearful, shy, evasive, dismissive or disinterested due to their often averted gaze and their "closed" body language, which is why contact is often impaired.[28]

Hans Asperger observed that the affected children also tend to "autistic self-examination"; In situations in which other children “live away” in oblivion, Asperger's children are often (critically) observing themselves and their physical functions.[29]


In the area of ​​linguistic development, Asperger's syndrome shows clearly different abnormalities than in early childhood autism. A general delay in speech development is characteristic of early childhood autism. This is associated with symptoms such as echolalia or exchange of pronouns. Even with highly functional autism, articulation, verbal expression, auditory perception, vocabulary and verbal memory are disturbed.[5]

Such symptoms are absent in Asperger's syndrome. The affected children develop a grammatically and stylistically high-quality language.[5] The observations regarding the onset of language differ. For example, while Remschmidt found that Asperger's children start speaking at an early age,[30] Attwood reports that nearly half of these children learn to speak late, but catch up by the age of five.[31] As Hans Asperger already observed, affected children regularly attract attention because of their adult, pedantic language that is not appropriate to their age and an unnatural prosody. In the English-speaking world, Asperger's Syndrome is therefore also known as the "Little Professor Syndrome" (roughly German: Little Professor Syndrome) designated.[32] The modulation is often monotonous and undifferentiated and, for example, does not support a differentiation between serious and humorous utterances. Often speaking speed and volume are inappropriate or unusual; unnecessary, jerky speaking also occurs.[33]

Many children and adults with Asperger's Syndrome tend to talk incessantly and lengthy, usually about their favorite topic, often completely disregarding whether the listener is interested in the topic and supports the conversation.[33] Some authors consider this monological, egocentric speech, which clearly reveals Asperger's insensitivity to social subtleties, to be one of the most striking features of the syndrome.[34] Further characteristics are a very detailed narrative style with difficulties to distinguish the essential from the inessential,[1] Abrupt changes of subject that are incomprehensible to the listener, taking expressions literally, answering rhetorical questions, using metaphors and word creations that are only familiar to the speaker, clinging to formulations that sound like they have been learned by heart or read from a book ,[35] Self-talk,[36] failure to grasp nuances (e.g. irony, teasing) and inaccurate listening.[37]

Special interests

From the outside, people with Asperger's syndrome seem to have little interest in their fellow human beings. However, there is ample evidence that they may have a keen interest in social interaction but lack the knowledge of how to do it. Difficulties in recognizing the body language and facial expressions of others play a role and are interpreted as a 'lack of empathy'. While 'neurotypical' people could be described as specialists in social interaction, Asperger's patients did not develop this specialty or did so inadequately. Typically, however, they have other 'special interests' that appear unusual in terms of content or intensity.[1] These interests often lie in technical or scientific areas such as computer science,[38] Math, physics, biology, or astronomy; other sufferers are passionate about music or memorizing all kinds of facts.[39] Others are passionate collectors, often of unusual objects.[40] Many have several special interests throughout their lives, but rarely more than one or two at a time.[41] Some people with Asperger's Syndrome are gifted or isolated; however, how often this occurs has not yet been investigated.[42]


Hans Asperger did not find the emotions of his test subjects to be poor in feeling, but rather to be of a different quality.[43] Commenting on her feelings, autistic writer Temple Grandin said, “My emotions are simpler than most other people's. I don't know what a multilayered emotion is in an interpersonal relationship. I only understand simple emotions like anger, fear, happiness and sadness ”.[44]


In contrast to early childhood autism, the intelligence of people with Asperger's syndrome is often normal.[5] Hyperlexia is also occasionally seen in Asperger’s children.[45] Children with Asperger's Syndrome often show an inhomogeneous intelligence profile. They often show strengths in the verbal parts of the task.[46] This criterion can also be used to differentiate from highly functional autism. People with highly functional autism often perform less well in terms of language, but are stronger in the action part.[47]

Asperger's Syndrome and Genius

Hans Asperger wrote, "It seems that success in science or the arts requires a dash of autism."[48] Irish child psychiatrist Michael Fitzgerald, who has published a number of essays and books since 1999 examining the lives of famous people for signs of Asperger's syndrome, is also concerned with the relationship between Asperger's syndrome and outstanding performance. Fitzgerald believes that many features of Asperger's Syndrome encourage creativity and that the ability to focus intensely on one object and go through endless toil for creative work is characteristic of this syndrome.[49] Other researchers like Christopher Gillberg[50] and Oliver Sacks[51] have made similar posthumous attempts at diagnosis. Some personalities - such as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein - have created real controversies.[52] Still other researchers are fundamentally skeptical of such diagnostic attempts, such as Fred Volkmar vom Yale Child Study Centerwho said: "Unfortunately there is a kind of domestic industry to uncover that everyone has Asperger's."[53]

Concentration and learning problems

Some children with Asperger's Syndrome become clinically conspicuous because they cannot control their attention willingly (see also executive functions) and are highly unfocused in activities that they have not chosen themselves - for example at school - which is the result Significant learning difficulties can arise even with a high level of intelligence.[54]

"These Active attention disorder is found almost regularly in children of this type. So it is not, or not only, the common concentration disorder of many neuropathic children to be observed, who are distracted from their work goal by all external stimuli, from every movement and restlessness around them. Rather, these children are not inclined from the outset to direct their attention, their concentration of work, to what the outside world, in this case the school, demands of them. "

- Hans Asperger: The "autistic psychopaths" in childhood, P. 119

If such concentration difficulties are present, Asperger's Syndrome can even be confused with ADHD (see differential diagnosis).[55] Another obstacle to learning tends to be the impairment of central coherence, which is typical of Asperger's syndrome: the ability to differentiate between what is important and what is unimportant.

Ritualized acts

People with Asperger's are often fixated on making their external environment and daily routines as consistent as possible. Sudden changes can overwhelm you or make you very nervous.[1][25] This is because changes require a higher level of attention, which, given the perceived weakness of people with ASD to block out information, must lead to increased brain activity.

Ritualized acts of thought and perception

In addition to motor schemes, stereotypes and repetitive speech acts, ritualized acts also include repetitive and stereotypical acts of thinking and perception. These consist of a concentration on a few special interests that are pursued with great intensity. They are suited to the same repetitive moment as the stereotypes of body movements or the ritualization of certain courses of action. Its aim is to relieve the neuronal apparatus by reducing complexity and concentrating on a few things and thus to operate more favorably in the energy balance of the brain.[56][57] The intensive development of special interests leads to the development of 'island talents', which can be more or less pronounced. The so-called island talents are therefore not skills that are simply available regardless of the actions of the respective person, but result from a long and intensive occupation with a certain subject area.[58] This is where neural fields and networks of high local connectivity develop, which are, however, only extremely weakly connected to other areas by global connectivity in the brain.[59]

Asperger's Syndrome in Adulthood

Adults with Asperger's Syndrome often live withdrawn and have few “real” social contacts. In their place nowadays, for example, contacts are often made via the Internet. Although some people with Asperger's manage to build a stable partnership and start a family, it is already difficult for others to establish contact with potential partners at all due to the lack of empathy. The demands of a partnership are often perceived as exhausting. The decisive factor for the professional development of people with Asperger's is the question of whether they can successfully implement their special interests professionally.[1]

Some adult people with Asperger's Syndrome knowingly or subconsciously make acquaintances with people whose personality traits they can easily deal with. You build up a social network with people who are mostly also very introverted, predominantly communicate on a factual level and often also have special interests, but who are not necessarily autistic themselves (colloquial geeks and nerds). Adults with Asperger's Syndrome and a functioning social environment are often unaware of their autistic traits. However, they are easily overwhelmed when they involuntarily deal with people whose personalities are too different from their own.[60]

Diagnosis in adulthood

When diagnosing in adulthood, it is often less the severity than the living conditions that plays a role. With good private and professional integration, no diagnosis or additional therapy may be necessary. Through life crises, caused for example by z. B. Unemployment or divorce, these people are then often conspicuous and diagnosed due to a lack of compensation strategies. This is what many autistic people who are only diagnosed in adulthood report.[61]


"Especially with the autistic, we see - with far greater clarity than with the" normal "- that they appear predestined for a certain profession from an early age, that this profession grows fatefully out of their particular talents.

- Hans Asperger: The "autistic psychopaths" in childhood, P. 133

Crime statistics

Although not enough epidemiological studies are currently available, most authors suspect that autistic people have a lower crime rate than non-autistic people. They would be more of a victim than a perpetrator. In addition, they would tend to apply laws rigidly and have problems with violations of the law.[62]


According to Hans Asperger, a favorable prognosis depends on the degree of intellectual ability. Less talented people often only get into a subordinate outsider profession and in the worst case hang around as "strange originals on the streets".[63] With "intact" and above-average gifted autistic people there would be "a good professional performance and thus a social classification, often in high-ranking professions, often in such an excellent way that one has to come to the view that none but precisely these autistic people are straight capable of such a performance ”.[64]

Differential diagnosis and comorbidities

Highly functional autism and Asperger's syndrome must be distinguished from the following other disorder patterns:

  • Schizoid personality disorder. In contrast, people with mild autism are often very open, honest and direct and often have little fear of letting others see their inner workings. This can be seen in the very open and personal self-portrayal in the many autobiographies and interviews of Asperger's and highly functional autistic people. You often want friends and acquaintances, especially in adulthood. However, due to their inability to perceive or respond appropriately to subtle feelings in the other person, their ability to make friends is often limited.[65]
  • Borderline personality disorder can be confused with Asperger's Syndrome in terms of difficulty controlling impulsive or aggressive feelings and self-harming behavior. The special interests typical of Asperger's syndrome, the pronounced rational thinking, the problems in the area of ​​sensory / overstimulation and motor clumsiness are missing in the borderline syndrome.[66][67]
  • Schizophrenia. Classic schizophrenic symptoms (such as delusions, hallucinations, and thought disorders) are not observed in Asperger's syndrome. In about five percent of cases, however, there is a transition from Asperger's syndrome to a schizophrenic disease.[68] People with Asperger's Syndrome occasionally take refuge in their imaginations or special interests, but this has nothing to do with schizophrenia, as they are quite capable of returning to everyday reality.[69]
  • Paranoia. People with Asperger's Syndrome are impaired in their understanding of interpersonal events and, presumably for this reason, are more prone than neurotypical people to paranoid world interpretation patterns.[70]

Sometimes Asperger's Syndrome occurs together with other disorders (comorbidity):

  • One of the most common comorbid disorders is depression, which is mostly caused by impairments in private and professional life.[1]
  • Some people with Asperger's syndrome also meet the criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. In the case of simple obsessive-compulsive disorder, the differentiation from Asperger's syndrome is easier than in the case of an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Asperger's syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder can also be present at the same time.[13]
  • When people have difficulty concentrating, Asperger's Syndrome is easily mistaken for ADHD.[55] However, both disorders can also occur together.[71]
  • Occasionally, Asperger's syndrome and Tourette's syndrome have been described together. However, when Asperger's syndrome is present on its own, it is easy to distinguish from Tourette's syndrome.[5]
  • As Gillberg has described, Asperger's syndrome and anorexia nervosa are sometimes observed together.[72]
  • The diagnosis of atypical autism (F84.1) is made when the criteria do not match either early childhood autism or Asperger's syndrome, but there are still characteristics or problems that can be assigned to the autism spectrum.[73]


Causes of Asperger's Syndrome have not yet been established. Genetic factors are assumed that occur together with developmental disorders of neuronal structures and with neuropsychological failures, which result in restrictions in the area of ​​non-verbal learning.[5] Inorganic causes such as faults in upbringing, neglect or trauma are now ruled out.

Genetic causes

The assumption of heredity is based, among other things, on the observation already described by Hans Asperger that people with “autistic psychopathy” almost always have at least one parent who has similar personality traits. Wolff's follow-up examination, too[68] indicates a "family burden". While the genetic cause of early childhood autism has now been proven by family and twin examinations, corresponding examinations for Asperger's syndrome are still lacking.[5] It is assumed that chromosomes 1, 3 and 13 are involved.[74]

Brain damage and brain dysfunction

It has also been suggested that Asperger's Syndrome - like other forms of autism - is caused by a developmental disorder of neural networks that leads to the incorrect processing of complex information. The starting point for these considerations are studies that are partly based on clinical samples and do not allow any generally valid conclusions, since such samples are naturally highly selective.[5] However, deviations from neurotypical performance that go far beyond the spectrum of a natural neurodiversity can be determined that are far above or also far below the expected performance level. Research on the neurobiological basis of autism must first be intensified in order to allow more precise conclusions to be drawn.[75]

Neuropsychological failures

A research team led by Ami Klin has identified six neuropsychological deficits that have proven to be good predictors of Asperger's syndrome. These are failures in fine motor skills, visuomotor integration, visual space perception, non-verbal concept formation, gross motor skills and in visual memory.[12]

In order to be able to identify neural correspondences for symptoms that can be described psychiatrically, neuropsychologists and neuroscientists rely on models that mediate between the two. It has not yet been possible to formulate a comprehensive neurobiological concept for Asperger's syndrome.[1] However, the following three models appear useful in this context:

Theory of Mind

The expression “Theory of Mind” (ToM) describes a model for the development of social cognitions in psychology and in the cognitive sciences. It describes the ability to understand the mental processes of others and to adopt their perspective. The subject of this model is the ability on the one hand to imagine that other people have their own ideas, thoughts and feelings and on the other hand the ability to empathize with them. From a neurophysiological point of view, the Theory of Mind seems to involve different brain areas such as the medial prefrontal cortex,[76] the amygdala and the Fusiform face area in the temporal lobe[77] to correlate. The mirror neuron system also seems to play a role in the development of ToM.[78] It has already been proven that children with Asperger's Syndrome have deficits in relation to these neural functions. For example, they have difficulty understanding and differentiating the emotional expressions of faces; they look at the human face and its expression like an object.[79] In the English-speaking world, this limitation of the ability to put oneself in other people's shoes is also known as Mind blindness.[80] However, deficits in the theory of mind can also be found in other disorders of childhood and adolescence. Studies have also found deficits in schizophrenic disorders, affective disorders and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorders.[81]

Central coherence (order of perception)

Another term neuroscience uses when trying to explain Asperger's Syndrome is central coherence. In psychology, this means the ability to integrate individual elements of perception into an overall context of meaning. This ability is impaired in people with Asperger's Syndrome. Your perception is very detail-oriented and selective; They find it difficult to grasp the overall context. It is not yet known which areas of the brain are responsible for this function.[1]

Executive functions (action control)

In brain research and neuropsychology, executive functions are those mental functions with which people control and plan their behavior. In Asperger's Syndrome, these functions are often impaired. It is particularly difficult for those affected to deliberately control their attention or to apply newly learned behavior. An important neural correlate for this function is the prefrontal cortex.[82]


Not every Asperger's syndrome has disease value or requires treatment.[1] There is currently no causally effective therapy at all. Symptomatic therapy based on behavioral approaches (e.g. TEACCH, ABA) and the practice of social skills is possible. Klin and Volkmar, in particular, have dealt with the treatment principles for people with Asperger's.[83] Adapting the external environment to the patient's difficulties can also be useful.[13] If symptoms such as pronounced hyperactivity and restlessness, aggressive behavior, sleep disorders or depressive moods are added, drugs are also used.[5] Various autistic authors do not want the syndrome to be cured, such as Liane Holliday Willey[84] or Nicole Schuster.

“A life without autism - is that desirable? I can answer this question with a clear “no”. For me, my autism is not a disease to be cured. For me, my autism is a special way of living, thinking, feeling and acting. "

- Nicole Schuster[85]

Disturbance or standard variant of human information processing?

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The majority of the researchers - including Christopher and Carina Gillberg, the team of scientists at the Yale Child Study Center and Helmut Remschmidt - describe Asperger's syndrome as a perception and information processing disorder of the brain. The British psychologist Tony Attwood, for example, takes a completely different approach, who sees the syndrome not as a disorder, but as a standard variant of perception and information processing. Attwood admits that Asperger's autistic people are structurally disadvantaged in a social environment whose rules of conduct they are unable to follow, but emphasizes that this standard variant of thinking has a full right to exist.[86]

Attwood also used the term “neurologically typical” (NT) to refer to people who are not autistic. While "NT" s are emotionally controlled and learn through intuition, Asperger's autistic people are logically controlled and learn through instruction. It is more helpful than diagnosing and recording the deficiencies of an Asperger's autistic person to identify their strengths and talents.[87] As an alternative to terms with clinical connotations such as “Asperger's patient” or “Asperger's autist”, the American educator Liane Holliday Willey coined the term “Aspie” in 1999, a (self) term that primarily describes the abilities and strengths of Accented people with Asperger's.[88]

Many people with Asperger's are now organized and demand - at events such as Autistic Pride Day - for the depathologization and social recognition of the autistic personality. The battle term of the autism rights movement - "Neurological Diversity" (neurodiversity) - expresses the idea that an atypical neurological development is a normal human difference that deserves acceptance as well as any other - physiological or otherwise - variant of being human.

In the United States, organizations like HEAL[89] and supported by actors Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey Generation Rescue,[90] that a suitable therapy would not only have a beneficial effect on autism spectrum disorders, it would also be completely cured and that their development could also be prevented through prevention. However, the arguments of these organizations sometimes resemble those of the eugenicists.

Empathy in Asperger's Autists and Psychopaths

Mentally disturbed people often only show behaviors that in principle every person is capable of - with the only difference that mentally healthy people can control this behavior at will and only use it in specific cases. Probably everyone knows overwhelming situations in which they simply switch off their feelings, no longer let them touch them, and also no longer want to know what someone else is feeling. In people with Asperger's Syndrome, but also in psychopaths, this occurs constantly and unconsciously, which usually has a negative impact on the relationship with their fellow human beings. However, each individual develops his own strategies in the course of his life to shape relationships nonetheless - at least within the framework that the underlying disorder allows. As interpersonal communication is disturbed in Asperger's autistic people, they cannot draw the same joy out of it as "normal" people and inevitably turn to other sources that give their life fulfillment. This includes material or ideal objects, but not, for example, the exercise of power and control over others, as is characteristic of psychopaths.

The term "psychopathy" was originally used synonymously with the term "personality disorder" or "neurosis".[91] This means that Hans Asperger originally did not classify those affected as psychopaths in the sense commonly used today. Since the term "autistic psychopathy" can still be found today in the ICD-10, the question arises as to whether there is perhaps a common cause with the psychopaths. On the other hand, it could simply be a similar behavior, which only has in common that both Asperger's autists and psychopaths are disturbed in their empathy or sensitivity.

As in reports about the cold-blooded gunman Adam Lanza, who apparently also had Asperger's Syndrome, whose act was repeatedly associated with Asperger's Syndrome, pointed out, for example, Priscilla Gilman, author of: “The Anti-Romantic Child: A Memoir of Unexpected Joy ”strongly suggests that psychopathic, sociopathic, or murderous tendencies must be distinguished from autism and mental disorders in general.[92] She also believes that the assumption that autistic people have a lack of empathy is out of date. They may have difficulty understanding the motives and nonverbal signals of others, be naive with others, and have trouble verbalizing their emotions. On the other hand, they are usually more honest, more reliable (principled) and less manipulative than others. You can also have a strong desire to get in touch with other people and be very emphatic. They just express their empathy in an unusual way. If autistic children were to react more aggressively at times, it was usually because of the frustration of being "different". On the very rare occasions when their aggression is outwardly directed, it does not take the form of systematic, meticulously planned acts of violence against a community.

The impairments in the area of ​​non-verbal communication concern both the understanding of non-verbal messages from other people and the sending of one's own non-verbal signals. Asperger's autistic sufferers, so to speak, from fear of contact, especially in relation to people. For example, if someone has a shocked reaction to what you are saying, just keep talking instead of asking. But maybe they would, if it did penetrate their consciousness, as a prerequisite for cognitive processing. The ability for cognitive empathy, i.e. the conscious empathy, is not at all or only weakly developed in autistic people. However, affective empathy, i.e. compassion for others, is just as or even more pronounced than in non-autistic people.[93]

Cognitive empathy is first and foremost the ability to "put yourself in someone else's shoes". Psychopaths also have this ability, but they remain emotionally unaffected by the knowledge they gain by empathizing with the other. They only use the knowledge to gain power over the counterpart. In contrast to Asperger's autism, however, they lack the ability to feel and react affectively. Revealing one's own feelings, intimacy, e.g. during sex, scares psychopaths. You do not expose yourself to the risk that someone could see through your feelings and thus possibly control them. In the case of psychopaths, it is better to say: they don't want anyone to notice that they have no feelings at all.

Similar to autistic people, psychopaths usually cannot explain what the real reason for their numbness is. However, they are also not interested in why they are like that, but basically blindly follow a kind of behavioral addiction. Sam Vaknin, himself a psychopath, describes in his book "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"[94] one common aspect of psychopathy - narcissism. He believes narcissists are addicted to self-affirmation. According to Elan Golomb, narcissism arises from a mother's inability to love her child and the child's unconscious feeling that it is fundamentally flawed and fundamentally unacceptable to others.[95] In order to protect himself from rejection and isolation, which the narcissist would not be able to cope with, but which he imagines would inevitably follow if others recognized his faulty nature, a narcissist tries hard to control the image that he gives out to the outside world. In addition, he usually tries to influence others in such a way that they give him self-affirmation. Like Golomb, Sam Vaknin claims[94] that a narcissist cannot love himself. That is why he tries to be loved, feared or hated from the outside - it is essential that he gets a meaning for others. The publicist Claudia Moscovici,[96] who has studied psychopathy for several years, believes that power works like a drug in psychopaths - and the dose must be constantly increased to achieve the same effect. Control over others gives psychopaths enjoyment and purpose in their lives.

Prof. Niels Bierbaumer (Tübingen) sees the starting point for (cognitive) empathy in self-centeredness: To see the effects of your actions on others understand, psychopaths (like all humans) have to do it themselves feel can. Just observing that someone is suffering is not enough to empathize with the suffering (see also: Observations on primates, which never help a conspecific in need), but you have to actively imagine it yourself. MRI measurements provide insights into numbness and especially fear memory. Psychopaths have their knowledge stored in their heads, but no memory for emotions - the memory of emotions is obliterated or split off, so it cannot be actively felt. In a dangerous situation, the fear center remains silent because the consequences cannot be seen. It is interesting that psychopaths may very well have the sensation of fear, but they can never relate it to an event in the future.

The following is a list of characteristics that distinguish psychopaths compared to autistic people, without claiming to be exhaustive.[97][98][99][100]


  • can specifically interpret non-verbal signals from others (in order to analyze their potential victim) and put themselves in their shoes, but remain emotionally unaffected
  • can quickly and effectively grasp, observe and analyze what is important at first in order to be able to reel off an acting script
  • gain satisfaction by exercising power and control over others even when they cannot really love another person and have no real deep feelings; e.g. try to force others into sexual activities, are proud of the sexual exploitation or conquest, and can be very superficial in doing so
  • They try to cover up their non-existent emotional life, but it sometimes becomes noticeable when they use inappropriate words to express alleged feelings - this is not the case with Asperger's autistic people, who appear helpless and naive in their emotional blindness
  • have charm and charisma, are casual, self-confident and absolutely convincing in appearance and cheating, not at all shy, not afraid to say anything
  • unable to develop qualities such as compassion, conscience, or repentance
  • work extremely effectively and very productively, as they have no inhibitions about making decisions and do not "waste" time with scruples or self-doubts; They let others do labor-intensive menial jobs, are easily bored and have difficulty doing tasks that they find monotonous or doing the same job for a long time; can form effective networks with like-minded people, extreme examples can be found in politics (fascism or similar) or in organized crime - this then even gives their victims the impression that the perverse views of psychopaths are normal and that it is pointless to fight back.
  • Do not like to stick to rules that others have set up, show criminal tendencies even as a child
  • mostly unable to develop and implement long-term plans and goals - nomadic, aimless life

Risk factors for psychopathy are emotional cruelty, abuse, neglect, and changing caregivers in the first few years of life.[101]

Research institutions

These are among the institutions at which research focuses on Asperger's Syndrome Yale Child Study Center the Yale University School of Medicine (Ami Klin), the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London (Uta Frith), the Section for Psychiatry and Neurochemistry at the University of Gothenburg (Christopher Gillberg, Carina Gillberg) and the Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy of Philipps University of Marburg (Helmut Remschmidt).

A group of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Educational Research and the Free University of Berlin has been working for several years in a nationwide unique project together with people with autism and Asperger's syndrome in the Autism Research Cooperation (AFK)[102] in the research of autism, whereby the decision about the relevance of the respective question is made from the perspective of the autistic people who are actively involved in the planning, implementation and evaluation of research projects.

Current results of international autism research are presented at the annual event since 2007 Scientific conference on Autism Spectrum (WTAS). This conference is with the establishment of the Scientific Society Autism Spectrum (WGAS)[103] 2008 also their main body.

Legal situation

Asperger's Syndrome as a Subject in Art


  • Craig Lancaster: 600 Hours of Edward. Riverbend Publishing, 2009, ISBN 978-1-60639-013-9.
  • Jodi Picoult: House Rules.