Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Yaroslavsky, Ilya

Subject Headings



Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a group of developmental disorders, which are becoming a major health concern within the US. According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) an ASD includes the following features: continuous impairments associated with social communicative and interactive skills, replication of specific, patterned behaviors and/or attentiveness to specific interests. Recent psychophysiological research has looked at how high and low respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) activity may be related to a lack of social communicative skills relating to social cognition, which are hallmark features of individuals who have been diagnosed with an ASD (Porges et al., 2013). These missing social cognitive skills such as empathy and emotion recognition skills can have detrimental effects on an individual’s life and how they interpret the social world around them. The current study looked at RSA activity in a community sample of adults. The study aimed to clarify if there was a predicative relationship between PNS indices and ASD symptoms, if there was relationship between PNS indices and social cognition, and if social cognition had a mediating effect on baseline RSA activity. The results found that within this sample there was not a predictive relationship between PNS indices and ASD symptoms, PNS indices and social cognition, and that social cognitive skills did not mediate participants’ baseline RSA activity. The results might aid in improving future research on this topic. Thus allowing researchers to work with clinicians to work on improving the empathic skills of individuals with symptoms of an ASD by using PNS indices, social cognitive measures, and diagnostic and intervention tools.

Included in

Psychology Commons