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Psychometric Assessments of Three Self-Report Autism Scales (AQ, RBQ-2A, and SQ) for General Adult Populations


This study assesses the psychometric properties of three self-report measures of autistic-like tendencies in the general adult population: autistic spectrum quotient (AQ), adult repetitive behaviours questionnaire-2 (RBQ-2A), and systemizing quotient (SQ). Three rounds of development and testing using different U.S. and global samples led to three instruments that are psychometrically sound, parsimonious, and generalizable across populations. The resulting AQ-9, consisting of two factors: social communication and attention to detail, now mirrors the current dual diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5. The RBQ-2A-R has now been refined through CFA for the first time. The new SQ-7 scale also has updated content. All three refined scales demonstrate satisfactory psychometric validity and parsimony and now provide evidence of their appropriateness for empirical research.

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  1. 1.

    There exists another adult, self-report scale, the Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adults Screening Questionnaire (ASDASQ; Nylander and Gillberg 2001). It was not included in this study because it “used a Scandinavian definition” of autism, rather than DSM or ICD-10, which “limits the evidence for its value” (Carpenter 2012, p. 123) and relationship to prior literature on autism-like symptoms.

  2. 2.

    The reverse may also be true as research on the “Double Empathy Problem” of autism has shown that neurotypical individuals may also struggle to read the emotions of autistic participants (e.g., Milton 2012). Thus, the issue of limited insight is arguably a mutual one.

  3. 3.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting this point.


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Author information




All authors contributed to the design, analysis, and writing of the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ronnie Jia.

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Dr. Ronnie Jia is an Associate Professor at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA.

Dr. Zachary R. Steelman is an Assistant Professor at University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA.

Dr. Heather H. Jia is an Associate Professor at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA.

Appendix: Final Scales

Appendix: Final Scales

All items are measured on Likert-like scales of 1–7 from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.”

All item numbers are from the original measurement instruments.

  • AQ-9 (Adapted from Baron-Cohen et al. 2001).

    • Attention to detail

      1. 6.

        I usually notice car number plates or similar strings of information

      2. 12.

        I tend to notice details that others do not

      3. 19.

        I am fascinated by numbers

      4. 23.

        I notice patterns in things all the time

    • Social Communication.

      1. 15R.

        I find myself drawn more strongly to people than to things.

      2. 17R.

        I enjoy social chit-chat.

      3. 22.

        I find it hard to make new friends.

      4. 44R.

        I enjoy social occasions.

      5. 47R.

        I enjoy meeting new people.

  • RBQ-2A-R (Adapted from Barrett et al. 2015).

    • Repetitive motor behavior

      1. 2.

        Do you repetitively fiddle with items?

      2. 4.

        Do you rock backwards and forwards, or side to side, either when sitting or when standing?

      3. 5.

        Do you pace or move around repetitively?

      4. 6.

        Do you make repetitive hand and/or finger movements?

    • Insistence on sameness

      1. 3.

        Do you insist on things at home remaining the same?

      2. 4.

        Do you get upset about minor changes to objects?

      3. 5.

        Do you insist that aspects of daily routine must remain the same?

      4. 6.

        Do you insist on doing things in a certain way or re-doing things until they are ‘‘just right’’?

      5. 8.

        Do you insist on eating the same foods, or a very small range of foods, at every meal?

  • SQ-7 (Adapted from Baron-Cohen et al. 2003).

    • Technicity

      1. 5.

        If I were buying a car I would want to obtain specific information about its engine capacity.

      2. 20.

        If I were buying a computer I would want to know exact details about its hard drive capacity and processor speed.

      3. 33.

        If I were buying a stereo, I would want to know about its precise technical features.

      4. 43.

        If I were buying a camera I would look carefully at the quality of the lens.

    • Structure

      1. 13.

        I am fascinated by how machines work.

      2. 37.

        When I look at a building I am curious about the precise way it was constructed.

      3. 49.

        I can easily visualize how the motorways in my region link up.

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Jia, R., Steelman, Z.R. & Jia, H.H. Psychometric Assessments of Three Self-Report Autism Scales (AQ, RBQ-2A, and SQ) for General Adult Populations. J Autism Dev Disord 49, 1949–1965 (2019).

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  • Autism
  • AQ
  • RBQ-2A
  • SQ
  • Mechanical Turk
  • Factorial validity