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United Kingdom Science

Huge Survey Shows Correlation Between Autistic Traits and STEM Jobs (cam.ac.uk) 345

Bruce66423 writes: A survey of more than 450,000 people in the UK has shown there is a significant correlation between a higher score on the Autism Quotient and being a scientist or engineer. AQ scores are also higher for men than for women. "On average, the male AQ score was 21.6, compared to a female score of 19.0. People work in a STEM-related job had an average AQ score of 21.9 compared to a score of 18.9 for individuals working in non-STEM jobs. This suggests autistic traits are linked to both sex and to having a ‘systems-thinking’ mind." A professor involved with the work said, "These may shed light on why we find males in the population on average have slightly more autistic traits than females do, and why fathers and grandfathers of children with autism are over-represented in STEM fields."
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Huge Survey Shows Correlation Between Autistic Traits and STEM Jobs

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @06:26AM (#50861857)

    Men shape the world so that they can earn more money. I demand equal access to autism for women!

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      I was thinking along the lines of "STEM jobs give you autism.", but what you said works as well.

  • Someone actually did a a study to scientifically confirm what mountains of anectodes strongly suggested? Impressive.
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Must have been somebody who's quite fond of statistics.

    • Of course. That's all anecdotal evidence is good for.
    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      And found an overwhelming ratio of "an average AQ score of 21.9 compared to a score of 18.9". Stop the presses, it's time to draw all sorts of wide ranging conclusions based on a single study finding a difference 3 points in AQ score.

      • by pr0nbot ( 313417 )

        Not to be autistic, but...

        Depends on the scale. If 21.9 represents the maximum on the scale, and 0 the minimum, then a difference of 3 would be ~13.7%.

        • 21.9 isn't the maximum. I just took the quiz online [psychcentral.com] and I scored a 36. The quiz I took said that anything 34 or above meant that Autism was likely. (My son was diagnosed with high functioning autism and we're sure I'm undiagnosed autistic as well.) When my wife (who is definitely not on the spectrum) took the test once, she scored about 10 or 11.

          • 34 here, but I definitely don't have autism, just a dysthymia and the avoidant personality disorder which got much better after I have started taking SSRI.
            Some symptoms just overlap.

      • The raw difference doesn't matter much when determining if there is a statistically significant difference between two populations as much as knowing the distribution of the data and the standard deviation. You might have two populations that only differ by 3 points, but if both data sets have a standard deviation of one, there's obviously a difference between the two.

        My main issue is that with tests like the one used in this study, the same people taking it again a few weeks later would likely differ by
        • That really IS enough to iron out any random factors, meaning that the male / female difference is a real effect. Whether it is significant is a different debate, but it's at least proved what the anecdotes have long suggested.
  • So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by symes ( 835608 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @06:42AM (#50861915) Journal

    I would much rather we classify conditions such as autism by the extent that someone is unable to lead a full and prosperous life. Rather than get all tangled up with low-level biases that may or may not say something about the disability. All this study really shows is that personality types are attracted to certain jobs. It does not advance our knowledge of autism. What would have been really interesting is whether there is a change in score over time as people enter various careers - to more autistic traits emerge in people who code for a living.

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @06:49AM (#50861939) Homepage

      This.

      It's weird that a lesser ability to socialize (high AQ) is considered a condition whereas a lesser ability to see patterns and handle information (low AQ) is considered normal.

      • by Sique ( 173459 )
        Because for some reason, working together in groups is more important for your survival and procreation than being able to spot patterns. The pattern spotting ability of the average human has been proven as being 'good enough'.
        • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
          Because for some reason, working together in groups is more important for your survival and procreation than being able to spot patterns.

          Yes. It's enough if one in the group spots the hungry tiger, if the rest of the group the cooperates well enough to kill it.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        We have to get away from this simplistic view that labelling is automatically bad. Autism is a scale, and at one end it makes it very hard for people to function normally in society. It's a good thing that we have identified it and found ways to help people who are affected in that way.

        What I find more interesting is that STEM is somehow more attractive to people who are a little further along the scale than average. It actually backs up a lot of what has been said recently about social issues in STEM.

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          Labeling is not bad. What people associate with labels is.

        • Labelling/stereotyping is "bad" in that it is a simplification mechanism. Simplification is essential for us to deal with a complex world without becoming totally overloaded, but it also means that we have deliberately donned blinders and we often forget that just because we don't see something, that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. And can turn around suddenly and bite you.

        • When we were first getting our son's diagnosis, we were scared of labeling him - thinking, as many do, that sticking a label on him would harm him. Instead, getting that diagnosis let us get access to supports that have helped him to thrive in school when he would otherwise have floundered.

      • It's not weird when you take into account the fact that you're using the popular (and incorrect) view of what constitutes autism. The DSM definition of autism [cdc.gov] details exactly what criteria are used to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder and it has nothing to do with seeing patterns or handling information.

        While their are some autistics who excel at seeing patterns or handling information, the majority do not. You might as well say that having a big dick is a sign of autism spectrum disorder since there are

        • To use the expression common in the autism community: "If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." In other words, every person is different and will have differing characteristics. Some will overlap but then others will have no overlap at all. What helps me get through my days doesn't always help my son.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        It's weird that a lesser ability to socialize (high AQ) is considered a condition whereas a lesser ability to see patterns and handle information (low AQ) is considered normal.

        Honestly, I don't find it more surprising that a lot of people with autistic traits work in STEM than that psychopaths become CxOs or pathological liars work in marketing. The way the computer barfs on a single misplaced comma it takes a bit of OCD to write good code. Most things are fine in moderation and a problems in the extreme.

    • "All this study really shows is that personality types are attracted to certain jobs. It does not advance our knowledge of autism."
      If this is indeed saying that people with autistic traits are attracted to STEM jobs, and that men are more likely to have autistic traits, then we've at least a partial explanation for the problem of women in STEM. And explaining why men are taking up the higher paying STEM jobs helps partially explain why women aren't paid as well as men. Those things shape all sorts of poli
  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @06:42AM (#50861917)

    What Is NT?

    Neurotypical syndrome is a neurobiological disorder characterized by preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity.

    Neurotypical individuals often assume that their experience of the world is either the only one, or the only correct one. NTs find it difficult to be alone. NTs are often intolerant of seemingly minor differences in others. When in groups NTs are socially and behaviorally rigid, and frequently insist upon the performance of dysfunctional, destructive, and even impossible rituals as a way of maintaining group identity. NTs find it difficult to communicate directly, and have a much higher incidence of lying as compared to persons on the autistic spectrum.

    NT is believed to be genetic in origin. Autopsies have shown the brain of the neurotypical is typically smaller than that of an autistic individual and may have overdeveloped areas related to social behavior.

    Help find a cure!
    http://isnt.autistics.org/ [autistics.org]

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

      W the brain of the neurotypical is typically smaller than that of an autistic individual

      Both of which are one-fifth the size of a sperm whale brain. Got a point to make there or..?

    • I know you are being sarcastic, but there is a large amount of anecdotal evidence that NT is an actual syndrome.
      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        The plural of anecdote is not evidence.

        Besides , a syndrome by definition is a-typical. Defining the typical as a syndrome robs the word of any meaning whatsoever.

    • I love it! Wish I had mod points today...
    • Neurotypical syndrome is a neurobiological disorder characterized by preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity.

      Don't dismiss it so lightly. Humans (and primates) are social creatures for a reason. Social groups are much stronger than individuals when it comes to conquering and defending resources. And building social groups takes political and social skills. At the individual level, if you have average intelligence and strength, your best bet for successfull

  • by steevven1 ( 1045978 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @06:44AM (#50861921) Homepage
    SCIENCE CAUSES AUTISM. No wonder with all those chemicals in it.
  • Bull (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @07:06AM (#50861983)

    Non-STEM people just can't concentrate because they have the attention span of a gnat, that's why they call the thinkers autistic.

    • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
      Non-STEM people just can't concentrate because they have the attention span of a gnat, that's why they call the thinkers autistic.

      Concentration is usually task-related. Non-STEM people can usually concentrate just fine on tasks involving dealing with people. Autistic people can concentrate just fine on tasks that involve not dealing with other, especially Non-STEM, people.

  • Apparently whether correlation is very high or just statistically significant , it will always be reported as a correlation. Furthermore, while autism started out with some cliche cases gradually more and more cases occurred where people said 'we can't really call this autism so we'll call it autism spectrum then'. So you have this standardized test that checks for 'autism traits'. You know what it means? It measures how bad you are in human interaction and how good you are in understanding things and patte

  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @07:49AM (#50862091)

    If STEM favorize hiring autism spectrum disorder (high AQ) , since there are more men than women having ASD, it is then not a question of sexism as many pretend but at least partially just plain biology ?

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Obviously Biology is sexist. Time to end that science and all its subjects!

    • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @10:02AM (#50862629)

      One of the things I learned when we found out our son has autism, is that people with autism tend to think in an If-Then manner. "If this happens THEN do that." This works out great for programming - which can essentially be boiled down to "if this happens, then the computer should do that" - and other STEM-type careers. It doesn't work so well for social interactions which are a mess of shades of grey.

      People with autism can "emulate" neurotypical by building up tons of social "if-then" rules that they follow, but (like computer emulation) it's not as fast as "running native neurotypical" and it can be tiring. I can get by in an office environment, but stick me in a party and I freeze up and don't know what rules to follow.

      • All shades of grey can be broken down at a fine enough level to black and white only.

        It's a matter of how soon you give up looking.

  • Definitely a STEM worker. I'm an excellent STEM worker.
  • So, apparently being the type of Person that can get all worked up in sich issues sich as IP4 vs. IP6 or String Theory makes you good IT Person or Cosmologist/Physicist respectively.

    Next up: A study that proves girly, exalted and hysteric types are into fashion and sometimes really good at it.

  • The AQ test has questions about social interaction and obsessiveness, but you are also asked to what extent you agree with "I am fascinated by numbers". Of course you are going to find more people fascinated by numbers in STEM fields. I wonder what results you get if you weed out the questions that guarantee correlation.

  • by LaurenCates ( 3410445 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @09:36AM (#50862435)

    No, seriously.

    There's this speed these days to which people are labeled "autistic" when really it could just be that there's no underlying medical condition. It could be some people are just maladjusted.

    At least, that's what it was when I was a kid.

    I've said this before in this space (not looking for pity, just kind of a contrast), I was raised in an abusive environment that was detrimental to my ability to interact with people. I also just happened to have the right skill set to be able to get an engineering degree. No therapist in the number I've seen over the years has ever even so much as suggested to me that I might be autistic.

    Other people haven't been exposed to circumstances like mine; they may just be introverts that aren't quite sure how to ask people how to interact with people so their unknown-unknown is "hey, there's a gap between their behavior and mine, but I don't know how to change things".

    Now, I know that people who do these kinds of studies are well-intentioned (in a "gee that's sort of neat that it happens like that" way), but thing is, that's when the media looking for a story runs with it, and the meme becomes a tool used for labeling people and putting them in little intersectional boxes so that we can add words to the coded vocabularies of privilege and identity and whatnot that gets in the way of getting work done, because we need to cater to all of these little labels and associated feelings and other blah-blah.

    But at the end of the day, who's getting the work done? I bet most of you that need to get stuff done in a day rarely even think about stuff like this because it's not part of your job to think about it. It's not relevant, and it taking time and energy away from what you feel is part of the discussion about your actual job.

    TL;DR: Who the fuck cares? Be autistic on your own fucking time.

  • ... to create a large STEM work force ...
  • I think it may be important to draw attention to the first paragraph in the article (yeah right, who reads it anyway?):

    Autistic traits are not the same as having a diagnosis of autism

    As well as:

    It is important to underline that it is not diagnostic. A high score alone is not a reason to seek help.

    • Also, when you do the test [psychcentral.com], a score of 0-29 is labeled with No autism, 30 - 33 = Possible autism, 34 & up = Autism likely.

      It seems the scores of around 22 for men and 19 for women are much ado about nothing. Both those still fall squarely in the "No autism" range.

  • Sorry, but being a nerd with all the social awkwardness that comes with it does not make one autistic.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @11:09AM (#50863151) Journal

    Huge Survey Shows Correlation Between Autistic Traits and STEM Jobs

    Just think how great it would be for corporations if they could convince people that suffering is a desirable trait?

    The "work ethic" will only take you so far. If you really want complaint slaves, you have to convince people that pain is good for you.

  • So there may be a biological reason for my introversion and social awkwardness. Does that mean I should give up improving myself to fit in better? Many of us can improve with enough effort and motivation. Some cannot.
  • Great job, captains of industry...way to read the trends! Just as autism/ASD starts swinging up, suitable employment for these people gets offshored/marginalized. Can't wait to see the revolution brought about by millions of angry people without social graces...just kidding.

    Seriously, I do see this as a problem. I don't know if ASD is overdiagnosed, but I do know that there are still people (like me) who are "normal" but not outgoing, don't like group/collaborative work, and would rather spend time solving

Bringing computers into the home won't change either one, but may revitalize the corner saloon.

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