# What is the evidence that mathematicians are more likely to have autistic traits than the rest of the population?

Baron-Cohen has conducted extensive studies [1,2] examining the prevalence of autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) and mathematical or scientific ability. Most of these studies, however, have focused mostly on (Cambridge) undergraduates or winners of the UK Mathematics Olympiad.

In one study, Baron-Cohen found in [2] that Olympiad winners scored the highest in the AQ test ($$\mathrm{AQ}\colon 24.5,\mathrm{ SD}\colon 5.7$$), with the second highest scoring group being the mathematics students ($$\mathrm{AQ}\colon 21.5,\mathrm{ SD}\colon 6.4$$).$$^1$$ This leads one to conjecture that autistic traits may be more prominent among individuals with higher mathematical ability.

Question: What is the population evidence$$^2$$ around autism/autistic traits in mathematics? If possible, at the postgraduate level in professional mathematicians?

Disclaimer: There is a another question focused on the postgraduate maths skill set: Is there any evidence for the distinction between undergrad and postgrad mathematics?.

$$^1$$Note however that the sample is small: $$n=16$$ for UK Olympiad winners, $$n=85$$ for mathematics students.

$$^2$$As in measuring the average AQ of mathematicians against other groups, such as graduate students, undergraduates, and controls.

References

[1] Baron-Cohen, Simon, Sally Wheelwright, Amy Burtenshaw, and Esther Hobson. "Mathematical talent is linked to autism." Human nature 18, no. 2 (2007): 125-131.

[2] Baron-Cohen, Simon, Sally Wheelwright, Richard Skinner, Joanne Martin, and Emma Clubley. "The autism-spectrum quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians." Journal of autism and developmental disorders 31, no. 1 (2001): 5-17.

• Hi Tim, thanks for an interesting question. However I was wondering whether you could split both questions please? The answer for question two is quite a broad conceptualisation question. Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 6:04
• Hi @Poidah, many thanks for the suggestion and for your answer! Here's a link to the second question. Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 21:31
• @Poidah Thanks also for the pointer towards that article. One potential problem however is that it focuses on arithmetic problems only (see the second question for more details regarding this point). Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 21:32
• @Poidah Lastly, thanks for your answer. I'm also very impressed with Ruzich et al.'s study! Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 21:34