Objectives: To investigate whether adult women with ASC display a psychological and cognitive profile similar to adult men with ASC, and to see how they compare to the general population.
Methods: The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Empathy Quotient (EQ), and Systemizing Quotient-Revised (SQ-R) were used to measure autistic traits, empathizing traits, and systemizing traits, respectively. The ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ Test, Karolinska Directed Emotional Faces, and Social Stories Questionnaire were used to measure performance in empathizing. A Mental Rotation task, an Embedded Figures task, and the Physical Prediction Questionnaire were used to measure performance relevant to systemizing. These were administered to 36 men with ASC, 29 women with ASC, 49 control men, and 56 control women, matched for age and IQ.
Results: Men and women with ASC scored significantly higher on the AQ, lower on the EQ, and higher on the SQ-R when compared with controls. Men and women with ASC also showed impairments in performance tasks of empathizing compared with controls. However, men with ASC and women with ASC showed differences in systemizing ability which were consistent with the sex differences seen in controls, i.e., men showing an advantage in systemizing over women.
Conclusions: This is the first known study to explore cognitive abilities specifically in women with ASC. These results indicate that men and women with ASC share similar personality traits and deficits in empathizing, but show sex-typical differences in systemizing. Further research is needed to explore these differences in greater depth.