The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism, Malesand Females, Scientists and Mathematicians
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- Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R. et al. J Autism Dev Disord (2001) 31: 5. doi:10.1023/A:1005653411471
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Currently there are no brief, self-administered instruments for measuring the degree to which an adult with normal intelligence has the traits associated with the autistic spectrum. In this paper, we report on a new instrument to assess this: the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ). Individuals score in the range 0–50. Four groups of subjects were assessed: Group 1: 58 adults with Asperger syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA); Group 2: 174 randomly selected controls. Group 3: 840 students in Cambridge University; and Group 4: 16 winners of the UK Mathematics Olympiad. The adults with AS/HFA had a mean AQ score of 35.8 (SD = 6.5), significantly higher than Group 2 controls (M = 16.4, SD = 6.3). 80% of the adults with AS/HFA scored 32+, versus 2% of controls. Among the controls, men scored slightly but significantly higher than women. No women scored extremely highly (AQ score 34+) whereas 4% of men did so. Twice as many men (40%) as women (21%) scored at intermediate levels (AQ score 20+). Among the AS/HFA group, male and female scores did not differ significantly. The students in Cambridge University did not differ from the randomly selected control group, but scientists (including mathematicians) scored significantly higher than both humanities and social sciences students, confirming an earlier study that autistic conditions are associated with scientific skills. Within the sciences, mathematicians scored highest. This was replicated in Group 4, the Mathematics Olympiad winners scoring significantly higher than the male Cambridge humanities students. 6% of the student sample scored 327plus; on the AQ. On interview, 11 out of 11 of these met three or more DSM-IV criteria for AS/HFA, and all were studying sciences/mathematics, and 7 of the 11 met threshold on these criteria. Test—retest and interrater reliability of the AQ was good. The AQ is thus a valuable instrument for rapidly quantifying where any given individual is situated on the continuum from autism to normality. Its potential for screening for autism spectrum conditions in adults of normal intelligence remains to be fully explored.