Teacher Professor

February 12, 2010

Autism Quotient

Filed under: Autism — Teacher Professor @ 8:56 am

Simon Baron-Cohen, one of the Gods of Autism Research (whom you either follow or violently disagree with), has devised a quick online test that “determines” how far along the spectrum you might be.  There are a series of interesting tests, which evaluate “facial reading”, empathy, tendency to systemitize, and the Autism Quotient. 

People with Asperger Syndrome or high functioning autism tend to score:

  • Empathy- low
  • Autism Quotient- high
  • Systemitizing- high
  • Facial Reading- low


  • Empathy- high
  • Autism Quotient- above average
  • Systemitizing- above average
  • Facial Reading- low

It is important to note that even being able to take such this test requires that people have some insight into their own behavior, a fairly high vocabulary and familiarity with British words and cultural touchpoints (maths, trains, etc.) Thank goodness I like people- although I can’t read their faces at all, according to this test.  Which pretty much confirms my inability to remember faces with names!

While I am a bit disturbed at the seriousness of autism being condensed down a 50-question online measure,  there are some interesting ideas behind it.  Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen is from Cambridge University and he has a theory that much of the “autistic” behaviors we see are extreme male behaviors and that there is something in the genetic structure of a Y chromosome or the hormonal balance of a developing fetus that disrupts the brain formation of the “female” qualities of empathy and socialability.  When I present this to students, I tease that it really is the fault of men, since the problem might appear to lie on the “male” chromosome.  Some of the theories suggest that it’s a combination of a problem on the Y chromosome along with a recessive gene on the other X or Y, but since there’s no absolute marker yet for autism, this is impossible to determine.  But it does make for interesting findings…  Stay tuned for genetic studies that are being conducted now…

Take these in fun- as I tell my students, free online tests are rarely valid or reliable.  But if they give you additional information, or validate other information you have learned, they can be decent tools of communication.  You can also find out what Action Figure you would be .  I’m not sure how useful that might be, but have at it.

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