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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.).Washington DC: Author.
Asperger, H. (1944). Die “Autistischen Psychopathen” im Kindesalter. Archiv fur Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, 11776-136.
Bailey, T., Le Couteur, A., Gottesman, I., Bolton, P., Simonoff, E., Yuzda, E., & Rutter, M. (1995). Autism as a strongly genetic disorder: evidence from a British twin study. Psychological Medicine, 2563-77.
Baron-Cohen, S. (1995). Mindblindness: An essay on autism and theory of mind.Boston: MIT Press/Bradford Books.
Baron-Cohen, S. (1999). The extreme male brain theory of autism. In H. Tager-Flusberg (Ed.), Neurodevelopmental disorders. Boston: MIT Press/Bradford Books.
Baron-Cohen, S., Bolton, P., Wheelwright, S., Short, L., Mead, G., Smith, A., & Scahill, V. (1998). Autism occurs more often in families of physicists, engineers, and mathematicians. Autism, 2296-301.
Baron-Cohen, S., & Hammer, J. (1997). Is autism an extreme form of the male brain? Advances in Infancy Research, 11193-217.
Baron-Cohen, S., Jolliffe, T., Mortimore, C., & Robertson, M. (1997). Another advanced test of theory of mind: evidence from very high functioning adults with autism or Asperger Syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38813-822.
Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Stone, V., & Rutherford M. (1999). A mathematician, a physicist, and a computer scientist with Asperger syndrome: Performance on folk psychology and folk physics tests. Neurocase. 5, 475-483.
Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Spong, A., Scahill, V., & Lawson, J. (in press). Are intuitive physics and intuitive psychology independent? A test with children with Asperger syndrome. Journal of Developmental and Learning Disorders.
Bolton, P., & Rutter, M. (1990). Genetic influences in autism. International Review of Psychiatry, 267-80.
Folstein, S., & Rutter, M. (1977). Infantile Autism: A Genetic Study of 21 Twin Pairs. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 18297-321.
Folstein, S., & Rutter, M. (1988). Autism: familial aggregation and genetic implications. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 183-30.
Frith, U. (1991). Autism and Asperger's syndrome.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Gillberg, C. (1991). Clinical and neurobiological aspects of Asperger syndrome in six family studies. In U. Frith (Ed.), Autism and Asperger syndrome.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Klin, A., Volkmar, F., Sparrow, S., Cicchetti, D., & Rourke, B. (1995). Validity and neuropsychological characterization of Asperger syndrome: Convergence with nonverbal learning disabilities syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 361127-1140.
Le Couteur, A., Rutter, M., Lord, C., Rios, P., Robertson, P., Holdgrafer, M., & McLennan, J. (1989). Autism Diagnostic Interview: A standard investigator-based instrument. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 19363-387.
Lord, C., Rutter, M., & Le Couteur, A. (1994). Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised: A revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24659-685.
Rutter, M. (1978). Diagnosis and definition. In M. Rutter & E. Schopler (Eds.), Autism: a reappraisal of concepts and treatment(pp. 1-26). New York: Plenum Press.
Schopler, E., Reichler, R., & Renner, B. (1986). The childhood autism rating scale. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.
Wechsler, D. (1958). “Sex differences in intelligence”. The measurement and appraisal of adult intelligence.Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins.
Wing, L. (1981). Asperger syndrome: A clinical account. Psychological Medicine, 11115-130.
Wing, L. (1988). The autistic continuum. In L. Wing (Ed.), Aspects of autism: Biological research.London: Gaskell/Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Wing, L., & Gould, J. (1979). Severe impairments of social interaction and associated abnormalities in children: Epidemiology and classification. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 911-29.
World Health Organization. (1994). International classification of diseases(10th ed.). Geneva, Switzerland: Author.
About this article
Cite this article
Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R. et al. The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism, Malesand Females, Scientists and Mathematicians. J Autism Dev Disord 31, 5–17 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005653411471
- Autism-Spectrum Quotient
- Asperger syndrome
- high-functioning autism
- normal intelligence